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Economic and Land Use Impacts Study of State Trunk Highway 29: Phase I Chippewa Falls to Abbotsford, Wisconsin

Thorp (profile as of mid 2002)

Clark County

Map of Wisconsin showing the location of the City of Thorp and the city's location relative to Highway 29. (2002)

Population: 1,536

Highway 29 expansion completed: 1993

 

The City of Thorp is located at the interchange of Highway 29, Highway 73, and County Highway M. Residents and visitors of Thorp enjoy many parks, volleyball courts, and a bowling alley. Thorp is located half way between Green Bay and the Twin Cities, in an area of gently rolling farmland.

Photo of a Thorp cemetery with the occupied business park in the adjoining distance. (2002)]

A cemetary in Thorp resides next to the occupied business park. (2002)

Community Perception of the Highway Improvement

There was some concern that downtown businesses would lose market share to the regional shopping centers. There was also speculation that as more people commuted from Thorp to jobs outside the community, these commuters would also shop in those communities, closer to their places of employment.

There was also a lot of concern about the safety of Old Highway 29. The community felt that the expanded highway is much safer than the original two-lane highway.

Current Development

There has been a substantial amount of development in Thorp at the time of the completion of the four-lane highway. Near the Thorp interchange, a new 50-unit motel replaced an older 12-unit motel. A gas station was also upgraded to include a McDonalds Express. In the past year, local housing developers obtained a low interest loan from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority to construct two new homes in the community.

The following map illustrates the types and locations of businesses in Thorp.

Figure 17 City of Thorp Businesses

Figure 17. Map of the City of Thorp illustrating the location of the city's establishments by business type in relation to state highways and county streets. Businesses are scattered throughout the city. (2002)

Proposed Development

The City of Thorp has been active in creating five Tax Incremental Financing districts (TIFs) to help finance public infrastructure improvements and support private investment in industrial parks.

Thorp has a new industrial park on the city's northwest side. The park has about 66 acres available for development with rail access. Two assisted-care living facilities have been developed in the southeastern portion of this property. There is another 100 acres of private land prime for development in the southwest quadrant of the interchange. This land has excellent visibility from the improved highway and TIF funds would be available to help develop the site, depending on the types of business locating in the industrial park.

In the center of the city, 13 acres of land have been designated for residential development. This development is directly related to the anticipated housing demand from the new Stanley prison.

Recent interest by developers to bring business into Thorp has increased substantially. The opportunity to develop a business with direct access to Highway 29 has particularly sparked developers' interest in the following types of businesses:

At various points in time, these businesses had expressed an interest in locating in the 100 acres of private land in the southwest quadrant of the Highway 29 interchange. However, so far no developers have been willing to commit funding without the presence of infrastructure (sewer, water, and roads).

The idea of a Mennonite furniture store in Thorp was discussed as a way to introduce local handcrafted furniture into the local market. No plans have been confirmed for any of the other types of development mentioned above.

Photo of the exterior of the AmericInn Motel with a visible "commerical property for sale" sign in the adjacent vacant property in the foreground. (2002)]

Americinn Motel is at a prime location just off of the 29/73/M Interchange. An adjacent property is for sale. (2002)

Thorp is continuing concerted efforts to attract businesses to the community. The City also hopes to market itself to tourists as "the halfway stop between Minneapolis and Green Bay". The city's population has decreased between 1990 and 2000, but the township has seen a rise in both population and housing units.

The following map illustrates proposed development in Thorp.

Figure 18 City of Thorp Planned Land Use

Figure 18. Map of the City of Thorp illustrating the city's planned land use in relation to state highways and county streets. The map distinguishes between residential, undetermined, and industrial/manufacturing use. Development is planned on the west side of the city, some in the vicinity of Highway 29. (2002)

Economic Impact of the Highway Improvement

Photo of the exterior of the busy Thorpedo Restaurant located near the Thorp interchange. (2002)]

Business has been food for this restaurant, located just north of the interchange in Thorp. (2002)

Thorp has been very active in economic development efforts since the construction of Highway 29. A website that describes economic development opportunities in Thorp has been created. The site (www.Thorp29.com) receives 30-40 visits per day.

In conjunction with the website, a five-city partnership was created, in which the communities of Boyd, Owen, Stanley, Thorp, and Withee are working together to jointly address growth and development issues.

Many of the developments in Thorp can be directly attributed to the highway improvements. The proximity of the interchange and four-lane highway was very important to the AmericInn motel, a hotel chain that exceeded income projections for its Thorp location during its first year of business.

Thorp businesses have a lower wage base of $8-$10 dollars/hour. With improved highway access, many residents are leaving the city to work at higher paying jobs in other communities along the Highway 29 corridor, because the expanded highway has allowed residents to commute greater distances to jobs offering higher wages and better benefits. Consequently, people shop in their areas of work, resulting in the loss to other communities of local retail sales. Thorp is therefore relying upon people traveling on Highway 29 to stop in for gas, food, and other necessities. The City hopes to attract more long-term visitors by turning into a tourist destination.

A view of Thorp from the 29/73/M interchange. On the left is a new gas station that includes a Subway sandwich shop. (2002) [Alt text: Photo of the 29/73/M interchange in Thorp. On the left is a new Amoco gas station which includes a Subway sandwich shop and on the right are houses. (2002) ]

A view of Thorp from the 29/7/M interchange. On the left is a new gas station that includes a Subway sandwich shop. (2002)

Property Values

In anticipation of the new highway, housing prices had initially gone up for the new developments outside the city limits. Since the houses were not being sold at asking prices of $130,000, prices are likely to drop to a more affordable level. At the same time, there has been a demand for construction of multi-family housing in Thorp. This type of housing is more affordable for the people living in the community.

The 100 acres of private land in the southwest quadrant of highway 29 are anticipated to rise in property value. This land was purchased at an estimated price of $1,200-$1,500/acre by four local businesspeople. It is expected that the land could be sold for as much as $130,000/acre for the right type of development. Rural farmland within three miles of Highway 29 has also increased in value and is selling for approximately $2,000 per acre.

The price of affordable housing in Thorp is considered to be in the range of $50,000-$75,000. Recreational land is currently selling for $650-$800 an acre.

Updated: 05/07/2012
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