New Wolf River Dental facility gets council approval

Project gets interest from Hillcrest first grade, which utilizes wooded area for learning
By: 
Lee Pulaski
City Editor

Plans to build a new dental facility on Engel Drive are not only interesting for the city of Shawano, but local schoolchildren, as well.

The Shawano Common Council approved a development agreement Jan. 10 with Destiny Unbound LLC to build a new facility for Wolf River Dental, which currently operates out of Woodlawn Plaza. Destiny agrees to acquire 2.6 acres of land owned by the city to build the new dental clinic.

The property is located in the boundaries of Tax Increment Finance District 7. Under the terms of the agreement, city property is assigned a value of $20,000 per acre, which means the total cost would be $52,000. However, the city is providing a development incentive of $40,000, based on the property’s anticipated assessed value of $2 million. The city is also providing a grant to cover the remaining $12,000.

The agreement noted that Destiny is expected to invest about $2.5 million into the property and construction of the building. Destiny will be expected to begin construction by Sept. 30 to avoid quit claiming the property back to the city, and most of the work is expected to be completed by the end of 2024 to get an occupancy permit and be valued for tax purposes.

“Essentially, it’s working out where we’re providing the land, and they’re agreeing to build the facility,” said City Administrator Eddie Sheppard. “We are setting it up so it’s not going to land lock the parcel. We’ve asked them to provide room — and they’ve done it in their site plan — so that if we ever wanted to put a road in there and put businesses behind there that wanted to be serviced, they could be reached. There are 4 1/2 acres left behind there on that parcel.”

The new dental facility is being built adjacent to Hillcrest Primary School, which is where the children have an interest. Heather Schmidt, a first-grade teacher, wrote a letter to Sheppard urging him to make sure the the wooded area across the street from Hillcrest is preserved.

“The woods have been a living classroom, providing hands-on experiences that go beyond traditional education,” Schmidt wrote. “Our educators at Hillcrest/LEADS Primary School have seamlessly integrated this natural space into their teaching methods. This outdoor classroom has been an invaluable asset in cultivating a love for learning and a deep connection to the natural world.”

Schmidt noted that the woods have served as an “extraordinary playground” for the young children since Hillcrest opened its doors in 2010.

“The wooded area provides a unique environment that fosters creativity, imagination, and physical activity,” she wrote. “Through unstructured play in nature, children develop essential skills such as problem-solving, teamwork and resilience, contributing to their overall well-being and growth.”

Schmidt wrote that it’s not just the children who benefit from the woods. It’s of value to the entire community, she claimed.

“They are not merely a collection of trees; they are a sanctuary for children to escape into the wonders of nature, fostering a sense of wonder and curiosity that stays with them throughout their lives,” Schmidt wrote. “Access to such green spaces has been linked to improved physical and mental health, creating a lasting impact on the quality of life.”

Sheppard noted that a couple of first-grade students attended a meeting of the Shawano Plan Commission where the dental facility was up for discussion, and they got their questions answered to realize the city did not plan to eliminate all of the trees.

“The goal is to keep that area as wooded as possible,” Sheppard said. “(Destiny) is aware that some of it is currently in use by the first-graders for teaching moments. We were able to make a connection between the first-grade teacher and Dr. (Paul) Mantz, and they’re really looking forward to working together to continue to let the kids use the woods and building some birdhouses and stuff like that.”

Sheppard noted that Destiny is planning to move on site work shortly, which makes the end of 2024 deadline easily obtainable.

“They’re very excited to get moving and get going,” Sheppard said. “We expect to see some of their drawings and site building plans very soon.”

lpulaski@newmedia-wi.com