The Heart of Menomonie

new momentum has me falling in love with downtown Menomonie

Tracy Chipman

Growing up, going “to town” was big excitement. It involved heaps of candy, cheap bottles of bubbles to blow (and inevitably spill in the car), the park with all its intriguing adventures, and the humming bustle of a thriving downtown. There is something satisfying and liberating about that happy downtown vibe – some downtowns have it, some don’t, and size doesn’t matter. Over the years I’ve become a keen explorer and appreciator of downtowns: San Francisco, NYC, London, Madrid, Edinburgh, Eugene, Burlington, and Fairfield, to name a few. I’ve delved deep into the heart of these places as a visitor and many as a resident and they’ve made my Downtown Love List. The one thing these downtowns all have in common is a certain vitality often born of their communities’ desire to create and recreate it. No easy feat nowadays, when sprawl and gentrification have weakened the integrity of many downtowns.

A thriving downtown should be available to everyone in the community, meeting their economic, recreational, and lifestyle needs. It’s a tall order, and chances are good there will always be some who aren’t satisfied. But it can and does happen. I have a whole list of criteria for my Downtown Love List, but the outcome is basically the same – a place where a lovely mix of the community gather, work, shop, live, and/or hang. A few key features include: a grocery store, hardware store (I love my tools), parks, art, bike accessibility, and a handful of tasty dining options. Those are my qualifiers, what are yours? It’s a great thing to ponder and consider as downtowns are back in vogue – communities all over the country are putting attention and funding into revitalizing and reinventing their downtown spaces. 

One recent addition to The List is Menomonie. For the past year I’ve been visiting this western outpost of the Chippewa Valley and I’ve had a chance to explore, participate, and observe what’s happening and what’s not. As of June 1, I’m happy to declare Menomonie my home and it’s ranking pretty high on my List. Of course it’s not without its share of baggage to attend to. Lake Menomin, for starters, more bike accessibility would be sweet, and maybe it’s time for a lil’ elbow grease and love for a few building facades. Even so, it easily makes the cut. 

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