Small Town, Big Ideas


  • How to increase their awareness and knowledge of downtown planning for smaller communities, with a focus on how to build political support for significant change through a multi-interdisciplinary approach
  • How to increase their understanding of the key trends impacting small town development from a transportation, community leadership, and place-making perspective
  • How to increase their knowledge and understanding of how to plan and execute a robust community engagement strategy on a budget


Smaller communities in amenity rich regions face a mix of complex challenges. These challenges include how to develop a community vision which balances resident, business, and visitor expectations, how to craft effective implementation strategies with limited staffing and budgets, and how to work effectively with State Transportation Departments whose Highways often bisect their downtowns. This presentation describes an approach to downtown planning for smaller communities, with a focus on transportation and high impact community engagement. Presenters discuss how to adapt innovative planning techniques to fit smaller communities, build political support for bold plans, and incorporate design strategies that reflect local values while appealing to a broader visitor market. The City of Waupaca (pop. 6,069) and Town of Gibraltar (Fish Creek (pop. 997), both located in northern Wisconsin, are used as case studies.