New River Prairie project is a perfect fit for growing financial advisory firm

One team member is working out of the office kitchen. Two others occupy a retrofitted furnace room.

“We’re bursting at the seams,” declares Steven Latham, a managing partner at River Prairie Wealth Partners (RPWP) in Altoona, Wisc. “We’re a relatively young team of financial professionals in growth mode. We want to continue to expand. We need a space for that.”

That’s why RPWP has decided to leave its leased offices and build its own headquarters from the ground up. The firm selected Shelter to design the facility.

During planning phases, RPWP laid out business needs that included a reception area, a conference room and more than a dozen offices. Firm leaders also made clear: They didn’t want a stodgy, stereotypical financial-services ambiance. That would be off brand.

“You’re not going to see any mahogany or anything super upscale,” says RPWP managing partner Kathryn Noe. “We wanted a space that was fresh and had sort of a youthful feel. It’s updated and modern, yet not uber-modern. There’s really nothing ostentatious about it. But it is going to be impressive.”

“It embodies the Midwest modest vibe,” says Latham. “When you walk in, you’re going to go, ‘Ok, this is really nice, this team has had success.’ But we don’t need to be overly verbose about it.”

Out of several layout models Shelter created for River Prairie Wealth Partners to review, this one led to the final building design.

Construction on RPWP’s new home starts this summer. The exterior will feature limestone wall panels assembled in advance, fitted with closed-cell foam insulation, then sent to the job site and raised into place. This process requires less time and labor than would be necessary if the same walls were built entirely on-site.

Inside, a spacious reception area will welcome visitors with a double-sided fireplace, a coffee-and-wine bar, and sofas and armchairs arranged to accommodate private conversations.

“River Prairie Wealth Partners wants their clients to feel comfortable,” says Shelter interior designer Lisa Antenucci. “They want to put people at ease.”

The entry space will also be flexible. To accommodate large gatherings (when such events are again advisable), a folding glass wall can open up and provide access to an adjacent conference room.

Another highlight of the building’s interior will come from outside.

“The natural light in this building will be amazing,” says Shelter architect Hal Snow. A raised portion of the roof will sit atop an array of windows, allowing sunlight to pour into workspaces.

Rendering of River Prairie Wealth Partners’ future home in Altoona, Wisc.

“We really did not want a cubicle farm,” says Noe. “The interior of the building is essentially a big glass box.” Such design features will help the building support RPWP’s growth plans, not only by keeping future team members out of the furnace room — but also by serving as a recruiting tool. “I think it’ll help us attract new advisors,” Noe says. Latham concurs, saying, “I don’t know of any other financial advisory firm that’s going to have as nice a space as ours.”

Shelter designed the new RPWP building to fit nicely among its neighbors in the burgeoning mixed-use River Prairie development, an area near Eau Claire that includes apartments, shops, restaurants and a park. Although the COVID-19 pandemic briefly stalled progress, the project is now full speed ahead. RPWP expects to move in by late 2020 or early 2021. The building’s future occupants are eager to operate in a space that has been carefully fashioned to fit their practical needs and aesthetic preferences.

“At the onset of this project, as we looked at different architects, it seemed like you had architects that really focused on either the form or the function,” Noe recalls. “Shelter has really been able to marry those two. Every design element they’ve recommended has been thoroughly vetted for how it will function in the real world.”

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