The city of La Crosse is once again looking for public input as it hosts a second discussion about the redevelopment of Riverside North. However, this time they are hoping to inspire residents.
"Think of this as a fireside chat,” said Ed Freer, principal urban designer with SmithGroupJRR.
Freer has been in the design business for 38 years and knows a few things about redevelopment.
“Sometimes we are our own worst enemies where we are embarrassed about our own backyards, and we tend to have a little trouble lifting our beliefs and believing in ourselves,” said Freer.
With 65 acres of Riverfront just north of historic downtown La Crosse, residents are going to have to start looking at it in a different light.
"The city has been acquiring this property for a long time, over 25 years,” said Larry Kirch, executive director of the city of La Crosse Redevelopment Authority.
"A lot of people look at a waterfront as an edge where water meets land. Well successful waterfronts really leverage into the community, deeply into the community, so they tie into trail systems, they tie into open spaces,” said Freer.
Freer said it's all about taking advantage of what you've got and making it the best it can be.
"You're on the Mississippi, which just happens to be the fourth greatest river in the world, and the value of the river is unbelievable and indispensable,” said Freer.
At the second public forum, Freer wanted to inspire locals to dream big.
"Ed has a slide show of urban waterfronts all over the world. Kind of just giving folks a big picture, big idea of what could happen,” said Kirch.
"Waterfronts are complex, there's no question. Ironically enough though, the principles and the issues are the same around the world,” said Freer.
Although Freer has successfully designed waterfronts all over the world, his focus is on La Crosse and helping residents embrace its surroundings.
"Let's rediscover the river. Let's make it something exciting and let see how the river can leverage what has been looked at as a liability,” said Freer
The third public hearing is on April 24 and will focus on the environmental impact at the site.