Bringing students and seniors together
Cuba City creates a Presidential Plaza
Cuba City is a thriving agricultural and business community in southwest Wisconsin, and a neighbor to Platteville and Dubuque—but one thing the city of 2,000 had lacked was a place for people to gather downtown, to visit with each other over a cup of coffee, to play cards or to hold community events.
- A gravel parking lot that had become a dumping ground for trash and abandoned vehicles was transformed into green space. Three Norway spruce trees, a pear tree and a lilac bush were planted, adding seasonal scents.
- Three wooden picnic tables with solar-powered, lighted umbrellas were installed and games were brought in.
- A local welder built a bicycle rack, high school students built a storage shed whose outside panels will display student artwork, and the Cuba City Telephone Company donated a Wi-Fi hotspot.
- Led by a UW-Platteville instructor, high school and university students as well as senior citizens worked together to create a ground-level, 4,200-square-foot mural of the Mississippi River with interactive elements.
- Adjacent sidewalk curb ramps were upgraded.
High school students spur action
High school representatives on Cuba City’s Downtown Task Force pressed the idea, conducting a survey of the student body that confirmed what city officials had heard in recent planning reviews: Residents wanted a place to hang out. A team of engineering students at UW-Platteville came up with a design to make Main Street more inviting as a gathering space.
“The pandemic presented extreme challenges to the project. Coupled with a very short timeline, it did not appear feasible in August. Only through collaboration and hard work did this project come to life.”
A long-term plan for community enhancement
Even with supply and labor challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, Cuba City was able to stage its Christmas Glow parade at the new Presidential Plaza in December 2020, and it is the site for the city’s Community Market. In the future, a bicycle/walking path may be added. No city funds were used—local donors and an AARP Community Challenge grant financed the improvements. The city and the UW-Platteville developed a 10-year plan for the space, with hopes that it will draw tourists, boost downtown businesses and provide an intergenerational gathering space for years to come.