Former Prairie Maison site in PdC gains new attention

By Caitlin Bittner

Two months ago, Community Development Alternatives, Inc. (CDA) began looking at the former location of the Prairie Maison Nursing Home in Prairie du Chien. According to CDA executive director Dale Klemme, the property has provided some interesting challenges.

 “The property is four acres,” said Klemme, who said that the unique space will be used to help create a property tax base for the city.

A couple of things that CDA wants to consider before coming up with any ideas for the property include both the opinion of the current neighborhood, as well as the needs and wants of Prairie du Chien as a whole. “We want to make sure that the neighbors are okay with what could be going up here, and also address the true housing needs of the community,” Klemme commented.

After assessing community needs, the CDA has come up with a few ideas for developing the location. “With wages being relatively low, there are a lot of people who can’t necessarily afford to buy, but there is a shortage of rental properties,” Klemme said.

Klemme noted that one problem the CDA has found with lower incomes is the likelihood of more renters than buyers. “The number of people who rent is going up because there are more people staying longer. They are no longer moving on to buy as they get older, creating more renters coming in than are going out and limited availability.”

With the goal of potentially developing the space for a younger population in mind, Klemme also said that the elderly population would not be left out. “Both are looking for properties that are manageable, small and affordable,” remarked Klemme.

Another alternative that the CDA is looking at includes housing for special needs. “With the Opportunity Center and Lori Knapp Companies in town, there are a lot of people who are able to be productive,” said Klemme.

When talking about how the space will be developed, Klemme said that while they could cut the property in half and run the street all the way through, they are hoping to keep the interesting layout of the land. “We hope to seriously investigate ways to give it a good feel.”

Products of brainstorming have included putting in wells and making the new area run on geo-thermal heating, while having a greenspace that would be open for the use of the community.

“Our challenge is to take into consideration both what the community wants, as well as what the community will accept, and those are two completely different things,” admitted Klemme.

In order to get a sense of both of those things, the CDA, along with the City of Prairie du Chien, is hosting two listening sessions about the new development. These sessions will be held on July 8 and 11, from 5-7 p.m. at City Hall. “At these sessions, we’re hoping to hear what people do and don’t want,” said Klemme.

An added incentive to go to the listening sessions includes $25 in Chamber dollars that is to be given away to one participant at each event.

After receiving the community’s feedback, the CDA will come up with more solidified ideas that they will develop further and create presentations about. “The next step then will be to bring what we’ve come up with back to the community to gather a public response,” said Klemme.

Through this process, the CDA hopes to have a plan for the future of the property in the works by the beginning of October this year. “Although we’re not going to be the ones developing the property, we will be putting together incentives for private developers to develop the property based on what the community wants,” added Klemme.

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