ALTOONA — One building after another has sprung up in the River Prairie development on Altoona’s northwest corner, and the mix of businesses, housing and public space that has been constructed there in the past few years isn’t finished yet.
On Monday afternoon, city Administrator Mike Golat and others attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Za 51 pizza restaurant, the most recent sign of continued construction at the site that has become the hub of Altoona.
Projects planned to also locate in the development’s northwest quadrant later this year include gastropub 44 North and Rice Lake-based Cabin Coffee Co., Golat said.
“We are excited about those new businesses locating in Altoona,” he said.
Those projects won’t be the last of development in that part of River Prairie. Other lots for building are still available there, he said, including one designed to house a multifamily building similar to River Prairie Apartments that opened there last year. The city is seeking a developer for that project, Golat said.
The northwest portion of River Prairie, off U.S. 53 along the Eau Claire River, also is home to a Staybridge Suites hotel, Cowboy Jack’s restaurant and other businesses.
It’s also home to River Prairie Park, a site designed to provide a wide variety of recreational opportunities and host events.
The park and the events it will host should help attract more businesses to that part of River Prairie, Golat said. An event, titled River Prairie P10 Festival, scheduled for Saturday, May 12, will celebrate the park’s opening.
“We’ve enjoyed high demand for the lots for sale, and we anticipate even higher demand as events occur at the park and more people come there,” Golat said. “The idea is you build the infrastructure to bring people to a location, and then businesses will want to build there.”
Another portion of River Prairie — commercial sites near Woodman’s Market — also remains to be developed. Golat said city officials are in discussions with other businesses seeking to locate in River Prairie but declined to comment on which companies might come there.
Altoona Councilman Dale Stuber said he is pleased with progress in the River Prairie development. The opening of the park this spring is key to attracting more people, and subsequently businesses, he said.
“We have a lot in the works right now in River Prairie, and that’s good to see,” Stuber said.
Parking for large events at the park could be a problem, Stuber said, noting the city may bus people there for some activities.
Ongoing construction at River Prairie is a welcome sight, he said, given that the property sat vacant for many years after the city paid for infrastructure costs there to attract development, incurring financial difficulties in the process. That changed in recent years, when businesses such as Woodman’s, Staybridge, OakLeaf Surgical Hospital and others located there.
“To see all that is going on there now feels really good,” Stuber said.
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