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David Salmela Architects’ largest project moves ahead with construction

BAYFIELD,  WISCONSIN ~~  May 1, 2020 (LSN)  Wild Rice Retreat, the first all-inclusive wellness retreat center in the Midwest, announces a virtual groundblessing ceremony taking place on Tuesday, May 5th at 4:00 P.M via Facebook Live (@wildriceretreat).  The ceremony will include a display of artist shovels, decorated and embellished by Chequamegon Bay area artists. Speakers include Heidi Zimmer, Founder and Developer of Wild Rice Retreat, a Native blessing by Brian Goodwin and remarks by State Representative Beth Meyers.  

The ceremony marks the beginning of construction for the $10.4 million project on 114 acres of land along Lake Superior and one and a half miles from downtown Bayfield, WI. Wild Rice Retreat’s main facility is the former Wild Rice Restaurant previously owned by philanthropist, artist, and entrepreneur Mary H. Rice.  The iconic Salmela-designed space is now the home for a unique learning platform with a holistic approach, hosting programming since early 2018.  

“Blending arts and creativity with health and wellness practices, along with a continued tradition of exceptional locally sourced food and service, our goal is to provide a transformational experience for each guest.  The expansion of our retreat center to add lodging and amenities will offer our guests a full immersion into nature and self-study” says Zimmer.  She added, ”we have been planning for eight years and the timing of the retreat coming to life later in 2020 seems particularly appropriate for the times we are in right now.  The cabins were designed to naturally provide each guest with the opportunity for expansive physical distance and plenty of room to breathe, rest, learn and create in nature.” 

The Salmela-designed housing revisits his original design intention for Wild Rice Restaurant by integrating the new accommodations into the natural environment with light-touch, clustered villages of modern nature-luxe lodging and other amenities knitted together with thoughtfully placed footpaths.  21 structures will be added to the grounds including 19 lodging units of various sizes, a PeacePod multi-purpose building, and a sauna. The RicePod, a modern “tiny house”-like dwelling features two single beds, a European-style bathroom, small kitchenette and Lake Superior views. Salmela Architects carefully considered the influence of nature and the northern Wisconsin experience when designing the lodging.  David Salmela noted “Wild Rice Restaurant was the best dining food for our body.  With the property now re-envisioned and expanding, Wild Rice Retreat will be the best food for our creative minds and spirits and a nourishing place to stay and relax.” 

Intermingled with RicePods are Nests; the ultimate luxury retreat-in-nature lodging experience.  At 480 square feet, Nests are highlighted by a king-sized bedroom, lake views, seating area, kitchenette and full bath. For a shared lodging experience, guests may opt to stay in a TreeHaus were four bedrooms, each with their own private bath and queen bed, a common living space and full kitchen.  The second story offers treehouse-like views of Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands.

Carefully crafted and locally sourced meals prepared by renowned Chef Lars Dukowitz (formerly of the Wild Rice Restaurant), daily programming, beautiful trails, and comfortable, exquisitely detailed lodging are all part of the retreat package.  Whether guests choose from a guided retreat, taught by nationally acclaimed instructors, a personal retreat, perfect for quiet rest and relaxation, or a group or corporate retreat where guests come together around a common goal, all the elements of retreat await.

Once re-opened, guests are invited to visit, learn, retreat, relax, and practice self-care in what has been described as “…the perfect setting in which creativity and human development thrive.  The focus is on artistic excellence in teaching and thoughtful, supportive programming for individual growth. At Wild Rice Retreat, there is a culture of integration with nature, art, food and well-being.”   

The Wild Rice Retreat development provides critical local economic benefits to the greater Bayfield area. The 2020 construction phase is employing eighty (80) Bayfield area contractors, builders and suppliers. Locally sourced materials and products are also used throughout the development including H Windows, Ashland, WI, Bayfield County sourced basswood, and Kohler fixtures, to name a few. Additionally, The Wisconsin Secretary of Tourism is thrilled with this project expanding experiential travel, health and wellness destination travel and eco-tourism for the region.

The development of the overall project is the vision of Heidi Zimmer, a Twin Cities-based real estate developer formerly of Artspace Projects, Inc. The $10.4 million project is financed by National Bank of Commerce, Superior, Wisconsin, and the Pace Loan Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Dougherty Funding LLC served as a key partner in securing the financing package. Zimmer’s award-winning development and building team include David Salmela and Salmela Architects, TVL Studios, BKV Group, Annalisa Bermel, Kraus-Anderson Construction, Waypoint Experts, Baldwin Construction, and Tribovich Construction. The Town of Bayfield and Bayfield County also contributed guidance and community support to the planning of the project. 

A full calendar and specifics on upcoming retreat offerings as well as information about construction progress can be found on the retreat’s website,


About Wild Rice Retreat

Located on the shores of Lake Superior just outside beautiful Bayfield, Wisconsin, Wild Rice Retreat creates a space for grounding the mind, body, and spirit through integrative artistic and holistic life experiences.  Our focus is on artistic excellence in teaching and thoughtful, supportive programming for individual growth.  Rooted in the idea of exploring and supporting expression in nature, Wild Rice Retreat offers a home for healing guided, personal and group retreats, meeting space, and events following the pillars of nourishment, expression, and movement.  Wild Rice Retreat is a vibrant, creative, and beautiful destination retreat center in Upper Midwest.  Wild Rice Retreat is owned and operated by Superior Living Arts, LLC. Learn more at



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The Lake Superior Circle Tour in northern Wisconsin (highway 13), loops around Lake Superior state highways in the US states of Michigan, Minnesota (highway 61) and Wisconsin and provincial highways in the Canadian province of Ontario (highway 17). These highways are usually the closest to the lake.

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