APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – Hundreds of residents attended Thrivent’s input meeting on its long-term master plan to redevelop 600 acres at its campus in northern Appleton.

“We are just thrilled with the turnout, can’t believe it,” Thrivent director of real estate and workplace services Eric Merriman said. “We have hundreds of people here, it’s just great to see the interest in the project from the community.”

As more employees are working from home, Thrivent needs less office space and is planning for the land and potentially the office space to be redeveloped, but nothing has actually been decided yet.

“We’re really in the early stages of the planning process, so it’s hard to say what it’s going to look like, but that’s why we’re here, we want to get community input to help us create the best plan possible,” Merriman said. “We’re inviting the public in so we can get community input, which we think is really valuable.”

The turnout was so large that another room was opened to allow for more people to be seated. Community members were able to share their input by putting green and red stickers on “idea boards” that showed photos ranging from businesses to apartments to recreational trails to voice their opinions on the idea shown.

“It is encouraging that they’re looking for so much community input at every step of the way, so that gives me a lot of confidence that the best decision will be made with this piece of real estate,” Appleton resident Joel Hermansen said.

Currently, much of the land is used for recreational trails, and the Hermansen’s, who walk their dogs six days a week there, say that they hope it stays that way.

“They mentioned trails and green space many times, so I hope that is the reality of the situation,” Joel’s wife Mary Ann said.

Grand Chute resident Janis Heifner bikes the trails several times each month and hopes there could be separate trails designated for biking and foot traffic.

“Have dedicated walking trails as well as biking,” she said. “Being a mountain biker, I would love to see some more off-road trails within the land, too.”

Appleton resident Jill Rooney said that green space is just one of the community’s current needs.

“I’m in real estate, so one of the things that I know and understand about the community at large and all communities across the country is that there is a real need for affordable housing and multiple housing options,” she said. “All of us have the need for housing, and all of us share in that need.”

Rooney also knows of the importance that green space has in a community, and bikes the trails at Thrivent herself.

“Part of that need is to provide green space, so I would think that what they’re going to do moving forward is to not only provide housing, but also provide that greenspace as well.”

Rooney said that the high demand for housing among multiple age groups is driving the affordable housing shortage.

“There are several generations in the market now that are still trying to buy,” she said. “We have seniors that are staying in houses, we have millennials that are buying houses and we have newer generations underneath millennials that are also trying to enter the market.”

The next public meeting on the redevelopment will be held in November, and construction will likely begin sometime in 2024-25.