You might call them Future Planners of America.
Fifteen teams of 7th grade students in La Crosse spent the last few weeks coming up with ideas for redeveloping a 40-acre site, which has been used by the Trane Company.
The teams worked on property designs. Four teams got special recognition for their proposals Wednesday during an event at Logan Middle School.
“We came up with ideas and then we sort of like just voted on them,” said one student named Oliver, “and then, if the majority wanted one thing, we would go with that. So like, the majority wanted apartments in that building, so we went with apartments.”
Some of the ideas for the Trane facility included a museums, movie theater, restaurants and church. Students learned skills in negotiating and working out disagreements.
“Two people would want one, and two people would want the other,” Oliver said, “and you’d just be bickering back and forth, and then finally, someone would switch over, and you’d get that idea.”
The city of La Crosse planning department has offered guidance to the middle school planners every year for the past decade.
“Getting kids interested early, so when they’re in college and pursuing degrees in public policy or urban studies, this is a field they’re looking at, and so we can get more perspective, ’cause the more perspective we have, the better our plans end up being,” city environmental planner, Lewis Kuhlman, said.
The planning office keeps the winning designs on file, because those designs could inspire future development.