Parks, shops & apartments: Altoona unveils new vision for River Prairie

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ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU) – River Prairie Drive is the grassy area you go by while taking trips in and out of Altoona and Eau Claire.

But right now, there are plans in the works to get a big part of the River Prairie development off the ground.

The city has unveiled plans for a mixed-use neighborhood in the northwest part of the project that would include parks, shops, restaurants and housing.

“The economy is rebounding a little bit. But Chippewa Valley Orthopedics, Northwoods Therapy and OakLeaf Hospital coming to River Prairie really provided an impetus for more interest in the whole area,” said Mike Golat, Altoona’s city administrator.

Golat gave WEAU 13 News its first look at the city council-approved plans Thursday afternoon.

“A trail along the river, access to the river, a strong public space component, mixed public space development, small format human scale retail, office, apartment buildings, and then there will be some pad sites along River Prairie Drive,” Golat said.

While it's set to a place everyone in the Chippewa Valley can enjoy, Golat said one of the goals of the project is to provide a new identity for Altoona.

“We don't really have a conventional downtown per se and that's why some of the smaller format retail with a streetscape is a critical component. We want to create that public space, that sense of place where people will like to go and hangout,” Golat said.

The city said Altoona taxpayers don't have to worry about an increase, because funds for the park and infrastructure have already been raised through tax zones.

“We're in continued discussions with some prospective users. I see this as probably a 5-7 year project. I think we'll get something started this year and then we'll go from there,” Golat said.

There will be a meeting at Altoona City Hall Thursday Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. where people can get a close look at the plans and ask questions.

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