Using HUD's Community Development Block Grant Funds (CDBG), the City of Wisconsin Rapids converted a vacant and ugly big box retail store into a center for senior citizens and much, much more. The 80,000 square feet facility sat vacant for years, thwarting downtown redevelopment and sapping the vitality of an adjacent mall, but no more.
City officials and concerned citizens of the central Wisconsin, Wood County city had worked for years on efforts to either replace or upgrade their outdated and worn out senior citizen center.
At the same time, local officials were wrestling with the presence of the hulking vacant retail box, abandoned by the owner for a larger facility on the edge of town, a classic move that has left many towns across the country confronting similar problems.
Although the seniors needed the additional space for their regular activities such as meals, periodic health maintenance clinics like blood pressure screening and related services, they did not need all 80,000 square feet. The end result is a 45,000 square feet center for senior citizen use and additional services, which include a county office that serves seniors and a library of materials directed at seniors, their families and caregivers. Adult day care service, which also serves handicapped seniors, is also a new addition. The remaining space is leased to a Montessori school a health promotion center, hearing aid service, a home care hospice office and a community access agency. Leasing the additional space spreads the costs of operating the building beyond the city.
A notable spin off to the redevelopment of the big box was the revitalization of an adjacent shopping mall. The mall was in a state of decline, in part because of the loss of the big retailer next door. Seeing the revitalization of the vacant big box, a local investor purchased the Mall, and among other improvements, reconnected it to the newly revitalized big box, now known as the Centralia Center.
See photos of the development