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Shell Lake Downtown Redevelopment

Shell Lake Downtown Redevelopment


The City of Shell Lake is one of several small communities in Washburn County, located in northwestern Wisconsin. The County was considering relocating its Health and Human Services facility from downtown Shell Lake to another community. This would have moved important jobs out of the City, which would have dealt a blow because the County was the second largest employer in Shell Lake. The City needed to find a way to keep the County’s building in its downtown area.

Indianhead Medical Center, Inc. (IMC) also has a downtown medical facility in Shell Lake. IMC recognized the need to improve access and parking for its patients as well as access for medical helicopters, which were previously forced to land across the street in a County lot.

All three entities – the City, County and IMC – were independently planning to make improvements within similar timeframes, which could create challenges during construction.


Aligning projects to reinvigorate downtown Shell Lake 
Selected as lead consultant to work for all three parties, including as architect for the new Washburn County Services Center, SEH helped facilitate and plan this extensive redevelopment within a two-block area of downtown Shell Lake. Writing and implementing a developer’s agreement with the three parties helped SEH plan and stage construction to meet each party’s schedule and budget. By coming together rather than proceeding with separate projects, SEH maximized positive outcomes for all parties and successfully reinvigorated downtown Shell Lake.

SEH worked with the City, County and IMC to define concepts and narrow these to final plans. This led to exceptional intergovernmental cooperation, including the private development of the medical clinic.

This project addressed complex engineering challenges, such as stormwater solutions, utility relocations and even the addition of a helipad.

Benefits to City of Shell Lake
Downtown Shell Lake is now positioned to better serve people who work and move through the City. The infrastructure improvements to 3rd Avenue provide better travel for all users, including pedestrians and bicyclists. Crucial underground improvements were implemented as well, with utility reconstruction including new water mains and relocation of a sanitary sewer line.

Benefits to Washburn County
The County’s operations are now more efficient with the new buildings – Washburn County Services Center, Senior Center and Maintenance Shop – tied together in one continuous campus.

Benefits to IMC
The enhancements to IMC’s new clinic building, access and parking provided overdue improvements to patient experiences. For example, IMC added a helipad and an accessible patient drive-up under a canopy cover.
These moving parts were brought together to redevelop downtown Shell Lake and complete the new facility in the downtown area, keeping jobs and creating the potential for new jobs. Another important outcome was the enhancement of services for the IMC Clinic and for the County’s seniors, veterans and residents, many of whom depend on the services provided by the County’s Health and Human Services department. This project has improved the overall viability of Shell Lake, supporting the economic development of the downtown and bringing 27 new jobs to the City.


  • 2021 Engineering Excellence Best of State Award from American Council of Engineering Companies of Wisconsin (ACEC-WI)

Shell Lake Downtown Redevelopment

City of Shell Lake, Wisconsin


  • City of Shell Lake
  • Washburn County
  • IMC


  • City reconstructed 3rd Avenue, a key access road to downtown
  • County consolidated its Health and Human Services facilities
  • County built a maintenance facility and senior center
  • IMC upgraded to a 9,000 sq. ft. clinic with a pharmacy, accessible entry, helipad and ambulance garage
  • Developer’s agreement between the three parties to help divide costs for municipal utility improvements
  • Coordinated vacating, demolition and redeveloping two City blocks
  • Crucial infrastructure improvements and relocations
  • Two-story architectural plans for the County’s building
  • Construction staging to avoid conflicts and meet each project’s schedule
  • Shared contracting with the County and IMC


  • Architectural design
  • Utility relocation
  • Private property acquisition
  • Civil engineering
  • Grant writing, coordination
  • Community involvement
  • Environmental engineering
  • Building demolition planning
  • Construction staging and administration