map showing location of De Pere Municipality City of De Pere
County Brown
Year Incorporated 1857
Population and Growth
Population (2014 if available, otherwise 2010, indicate) 23,800 (2010)
WI Workforce Development Region 5
Young Adult Gaining Measure 11% (WI median is -22%)
Young Adult Maintaining Measure 32% (WI median is 24%)
Social/Demographic Data
Racial stats, 2010 Census 92.8% White (non-Hispanic)
1.2% White (Hispanic)
0.9% African American
1.2% American Indian and Alaska Native
1.5% Asian
0.7% Other
1.8% Two or More Races
Mean Income $55,345 (2015)
Median Income $33,084 (2015)
Year of Latest Comprehensive Development Plan 2010
Year and Amount of Last Referendum Passed Unified School District of De Pere (2015), $7.1 million; West De Pere School District (2006), $18.25 million
Notes De Pere is served by two public school districts: Unified School District of De Pere and West De Pere School District.
Type Name Grades Served Private/Public
Elementary Hemlock Creek Elementary Pre-K – 5 Public
Westwood Elementary Pre-K – 5 Public
Altmeyer Elementary Pre-K – 4 Public
Dickinson Elementary Pre-K – 4 Public
Heritage Elementary Pre-K – 4 Public
Syble Hopp School Ages 3 - 23 Public
Green Bay Montessori Children's World Pre-K – 1 Private
Notre Dame School of De Pere Pre-K – 8 Private
Our Lady of Lourdes School Pre-K – 8 Private
Middle West De Pere Middle School 6-8 Public
Phantom Knight School of Opportunity (Public Charter) 7-12 Public Charter
Foxview Intermediate 5-6 Public
De Pere Middle School 7-8 Public
Syble Hopp School Ages 3-23 Public
Notre Dame School of De Pere Pre-K – 8 Private
Our Lady of Lourdes School Pre-K – 8 Private
High West De Pere High School 9-12 Public
Phantom Knight School of Opportunity (Public Charter) 7-12 Public Charter
De Pere High School 9-12 Public
Syble Hopp School Ages 3-23 Public

Conducting the Case Study in De Pere

Sheamus Johnson began building a core group in De Pere in January of 2017. Allyson Watson, who was then a University of Wisconsin-Extension educator in Brown County, later became a member of the research team. The following points briefly review how we developed our interview guide and interview contacts:

  1. Connect to University of Wisconsin-Extension:

    We reached out to Allyson Watson with Brown County UW-Extension, requesting recommendations for community leaders who might be interested in our project.

  2. Connect to De Pere Leaders to Form a Core Group:

    Allyson Watson took the lead on reaching out to a number of government, business, and community leaders in De Pere.

  3. Develop Interview Guide and Contact List:

    We met with the core group to address the following three points:

    • How is this project relevant to De Pere, and your role in De Pere?
    • What questions should we include in our interviews?
    • Who should we invite to interviews?

    This meeting solidified our interview guide for De Pere, highlighting those questions that fit best with the community. It was also a major milestone in our holistic and participatory approach. Allyson Watson joined the research team to assist in identifying potential participants, conducting interviews, and analyzing the interview data. The participatory nature of conducting research with a member of the community greatly contributed to our holistic understanding of what makes De Pere an attractive community for young adults.

  4. Conduct Interviews:

    We administered the following interview guide to twenty interviewees whom we reached through the core group's recommendations. Sheamus Johnson and Allyson Watson conducted the interviews between February and early May of 2017.

  5. Present and Revise Report:

    We analyzed and summarized the results of our interviews, presented them to our De Pere Core Group, and revised the report based on their comments.

De Pere Interview Guide
  1. How long have you lived here?
    Follow-up: Where do you live?
  2. How local is your family to where you live?
  3. What would you say to someone who is thinking of moving here?
  4. What would you say to a young adult (20-39) who is thinking of moving here?
  5. Why do people move here?
    Follow up: How did you find out about De Pere?
  6. Why do people stay here?
  7. What strategies or factors that attract young adults to where you live are you aware of?
  8. What do young people do for entertainment around here?
  9. How would you want your town to grow? How would you want it to stay the same?
  10. What people would not feel comfortable here?
  11. Why did you move here?
  12. What would influence you to stay or leave?
    Follow up: Where would you go?
  13. What does community mean to you? What does community look like here?
  14. Where do young adults who live here work? What about other people who live here?
    Follow up: Do you feel like there is opportunity there?
  15. What are the schools like here?

Results for De Pere

While the identities of interview participants remain confidential, a few key demographic insights may prove useful to readers in their analysis of these findings.

Overall, our twenty interviewees repeatedly cited a number of factors that were attracting young adults and keeping them in the community.

Close-knit Community, Small Town Feeling in a City

All De Pere participants felt connected to their community. They noted that there is a lot to do, but that it maintains a small-town atmosphere. Sometimes this was fostered through a sense of community, and sometimes supported by adequate amenities.

The connections to community are a significant factor it what keeps young adults in De Pere. Ten interview participants shared that people stay because of deep roots to the community, which may take some time to cultivate.

Deep roots may refer not only to the strength of relationships in the community, but also a proximity to extended family or to a personal connection and history in the community.

Young adults' connection to De Pere is further evidenced by the fact that an outstanding career opportunity is about the only thing that would influence them to leave the community. Eight participants mentioned that a better career opportunity would influence them to leave.

Close Proximity to Green Bay, Fox Valley Cities

One of the frequently mentioned reasons why De Pere is an attractive place for young adults is its proximity to other urban areas. Fourteen participants mentioned De Pere's proximity to other areas. De Pere is large enough to have sufficient amenities of its own, but the proximity to Green Bay and the Fox Valley allows for a greater diversity in employment opportunities, entertainment, and a place to live that is conveniently located close to all of these and family.

Proximity to other urban areas is a theme throughout many of our other case studies. De Pere's thematic connection to other municipalities in our study will be examined later in this report.

Excellent Schools, Family-Oriented and Perceived as Safe

Twelve participants felt that De Pere was not only a safe community, but an excellent one to raise children in. This was largely due to positive perceptions of the school, plenty of activities for families, and a community that embraces families.

Perspectives on St. Norbert College

Due to the composition of the De Pere Core Group (including some educational leaders from St. Norbert College) and the referrals shared for potential interview participants, it is important to note that St. Norbert College was highly represented in this study. St. Norbert College has a student body of just over 2,000 undergraduate students. Five of the interview participants had attended St. Norbert College for their undergraduate education and four had attended or were attending St. Norbert College for their post-graduate work.

We asked participants who first came to De Pere as St. Norbert College students about their perspectives of the community as students. They said things like:

Change and Growth in De Pere
Concerns Related to Rapid Growth and Housing Demand

If there was any one subject that drew criticism from residents, it was the rapid growth of the school district in recent years resulting in larger class sizes (4 participants), and the development of new subdivisions along with increased pressure on the housing market (3 participants).

Commercial Development in De Pere

Seven participants shared that they felt De Pere was on the right track with recent development, particularly in the downtown area – mentioning specifically the 102 on Broadway (luxury apartment development) and an increase in modern restaurants. Nine participants spoke to specific development ideas for Downtown De Pere and emphasized restaurants and entertainment venues (such as breweries, third spaces, ethnic dining and concert venues). Six participants shared that they felt these specific types of amenities were attractive to young professionals:

Entertainment in De Pere

Participants mentioned a general drinking culture in De Pere as a form of entertainment. But they also discussed how there is much more to do for fun in De Pere.

Participants also saw the warmer months as offering more opportunities than the winter.

One participant noted a positive change in winter outdoor entertainment requested by the community and facilitated by the city and county:

Factors Important for Young Adult Retention

When asked what participants would like to see remain the same in De Pere, interview participants generally expressed contentment with the way things are presently, and wanted the city to maintain a high level of quality in community services, such as education, pools, parks/trails, recreation programs. Specific responses to this question included:

Maintaining the city's strengths seemed to be tied to the current population size/density, too. There was, as mentioned earlier, concern about rapid growth in the community expressed by seven interviewees along the following themes:

Historic Downtown Preservation

Many participants shared that they would like to preserve the historic feel of buildings in downtown De Pere and that it was important that a preservation-focused development mindset continue. They also noted that there seemed to be some vacant buildings, and that they would like them to be used rather than razed for new construction.

How De Pere Compared to Other Municipalities
Proximity to other Urban Centers

Proximity to other urban areas was frequently mentioned by participants not only in De Pere, but several other municipalities in our study as well. In other locations, the importance of proximity to other urban areas was particularly visible in where people worked. In New Richmond and Somerset (in Western Wisconsin near the Minnesota border) people estimated that roughly half of the population worked in town, and the other half in the Twin Cities (MN) or other nearby towns. In De Pere, one of the larger communities we studied, being close to another city certainly affords a diversity of employment options, but it may not be as strong of pull in De Pere as in other locations. This is evidenced by multiple participants mentioning employers more local to De Pere as capturing the workforce.

School, Feelings of Safety

Most of the communities we studied cite the schools as a primary factor for attracting and retaining young adults. When asked what they would say to a young adult (20-39) who is thinking of moving to their community, participants frequently mentioned that it is a great place to start a family and raise kids. Similarly, De Pere residents, along with those in other municipalities, feel a general sense of safety in their community.

Entertainment and the Outdoors

The Fox River and Fox River Trail were frequently mentioned by De Pere residents. Some viewed the trail as a convenient way to commute to work. Others liked accessing it for exercise or to simply enjoy the outdoors. Other municipalities were similarly tied to outdoor resources. Residents in Hayward, Onalaska, West Bend, Somerset, New Richmond, and Plover consider access to outdoor recreation/amenities as an important part of why they enjoy living there.

Outdoor and community event programming (facilitated by the municipality or a community organization) were recurring themes in De Pere and other communities studied. De Pere residents mentioned things like Yoga in the Park, the Knights on the Fox outdoor concert series at St. Norbert College, as well as the city-operated recreation leagues for youth. This was a common thread in nearby communities of Omro and Black Creek, where interview participants had high praise for community events and credited them for helping to cultivate a culture of social cohesion.

So What? Implications for De Pere

Some of the results from our study may not be surprising to you. Many of the themes brought up by participants are indicative of any healthy, thriving community. While you may not be surprised to hear that a strong school system and proximity to another urban area for shopping and/or jobs are important to community members, it is important to remember that there are many communities that are struggling to retain their young adults due to a lack of these community amenities and attributes. We hope that the results of this case study affirm the good work being done in your own community while aiding others who will greatly value the observations and results gathered in your community.

In combing through the qualitative data for this study, several themes have also emerged that have important implications for De Pere in the future. These themes are described in greater detail here.

Amenities are Important

In many ways, De Pere seems to be on the right track in terms of commercial development, but this is not void of community members' concerns for other types of growth. Many participants in our study mentioned that downtown De Pere has undergone many positive changes in the recent years. The increase in downtown amenities are attractive to young adults. Additional dining options and the luxury apartment development were among the attractive additions to De Pere's downtown. While the uptick in these amenities has been positively received, community members are hungry for more modern dining and entertainment options. They are also eager to preserve the historic feel of downtown. Future commercial developments in downtown would likely be positively received if they hit these two points; historic preservation of the store front and either entertainment or dining.

Growth is Double-Edged

While the interview participants see downtown development as positive, they have concerns about increasing population and overburdening the school system. This, coupled with the fact that many residents appreciate and depend on the high quality of community services, poses a challenge for future development in De Pere. Additionally, special attention should be paid to the current housing demand in De Pere. Some interview participants expressed concern about not being able to find a reasonably priced starter home, and about how the school district is planning for increased population from new developments. It will be particularly important to balance growth with those factors that attract young adults to the area in first place; good schools, attractive and modern amenities, and a general sense of safety in a small-feeling family-oriented community.

Outdoor Amenities

Community residents embrace and utilize the Fox River trail for both recreation and transportation. Recently, the city began plowing the trail during the winter months, a step that was praised by at least one participant in our study. Given that interviewees also discussed a decline in community activities during the winter months, support for winter events may be important. De Pere already has a good track record of listening to community members' wants and concerns. Continuing to be open and receptive to community member's wants and concerns will set De Pere up to be an attractive place for young adults and residents in general.