CLIENT: City of Wisconsin Rapids, in partnership with the Wisconsin Rapids Together Task Force

DATES: 2021-Present

NEED: For 125 years, Wisconsin Rapids was at the heart of the pulp and paper industry and the economic engine of the City and Wood County—innovating new processes, creating jobs, and generating wealth. At its height the Mill had more than 1,000 acres with 915 employees producing 540,000 tons of paper annually. Yet like so many other paper mills across the state it faced the growing pressures of a rapidly shifting industry—ultimately shuttering in 2020. During that time the City and State representatives strove to understand the impacts of the loss of a major job base. They called for a Renewal and Recovery Plan to assist the community in accessing resources and assistance, and to explore options for the Mill’s future.

ROLE: Assessment and Rapid Renewal Recovery and Redevelopment Plan. Due to the property’s vast size and range of facilities, the team called for a diverse strategy for multiple sites within the property—as well as ways to better integrate the property into the downtown and address housing and other community needs. Vandewalle & Associates worked with the City, a variety of industry experts and partners, and subconsultants to:

  1. Evaluate regional and global economic trends and emerging technologies within the woody biomass sector
  2. Evaluate area/regional infrastructure, work force, and social/cultural assets for potential to create reuse opportunities
  3. Evaluate Sites and Facilities
  4. Engage public to identify community needs and goals
  5. Identify Reuse Opportunities
  6. Prepare Redevelopment Plan by site
  7. Develop an implementation strategy including funding strategies, funding mechanisms, partnership creation, marketing, business and developer recruitment, and procuring grants


The resulting Plan identifies five key opportunities within the woody biomass sector for potential deployment on various sites throughout the property. They include:

  • Emerging Forest Products Production
  • Industrial and Logistics Park
  • Renewable Energy Park
  • Pulp Facility
  • Value-Added Agricultural Production

Site Reuse Plan

Building on the Economic Opportunities Analysis, the Site Reuse Plan identified five key districts on the Mill property and identified potential reuses for subareas in those district based on existing building conditions, existing infrastructure, and other site specific conditions. Furthermore, the plan identified implementation tasks with recommendations for what the City can do before, during, and after disposition of the Mill property.

The Rapid Renewal Recovery and Redevelopment Plan for Wisconsin Rapids has been well received by stakeholders and the community, and is currently in the stage of creating partnerships, developing funding strategies, and recruiting potential buyers.