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Dream phase morphs into planning

Plans are taking shape for this site to become home to a River Falls community center.

The property surrounding the boarded-up old Bruce Foster house on Winter Street may not look like much, but Foster's daughter, Judie Babcock, said planning has begun for big changes to come. Perhaps three years from now, the 2.2 acre site just south of the Winter Street bridge will have a two-story, 10,000-square-foot building to house nonprofit groups, seniors and the local food pantry.

"The idea has gotten more robust, going from vision to doable," said Judie Babcock, CEO of Foster Associates Inc., which owns the site. "We have an agreement with a developer to work with us. Now we have to start looking at raising the money."

Babcock said a "ballpark estimate" is $800,000 to $1 million. She envisions an "energy efficient building with a high-green content," with a goal to have it certified as green.

Babcock hopes to set up a steering committee this fall to begin planning and fundraising. Once formed, this committee will likely start meeting in January.

Babcock said no public tax dollars will be used for the project. Various public and private grants, however, will be sought.

"We know the amount of money needed is of a large magnitude," she said. "But we also know it won't be done overnight. The fundraising will take some skilled resources."

Babcock said that the facility's primary purpose is to meet the space needs of the River Falls Food Pantry. Toward that end, this past summer the Foster property was used as garden plots to raise produce for the food pantry.

Along with two other garden sites, about 5,000 pounds of locally grown produce were distributed to not only the local food pantry but others in the region.

The future building will not only house the food pantry but also a community center where seniors and nonprofit, service and professional groups could meet.

Those who wish to join a steering committee may contact Babcock at her home number, 426-9541, or by e-mail at

Another person to contact is Food Pantry Director Janna Carl at 425-5253 or

Said Babcock: "At this point, all I can say to interested people is, 'Start thinking of how you would like to give.'"

For more details on this story, see the Oct. 22 print edition of the River Falls Journal.