After nearly three years of sitting empty, La Crosse's Grand River Station has its first commercial tenant.
Last week Care Wisconsin signed a 6 1/2-year lease for 6,000 square-feet at the south end of the building.
In the past three years, the company working to lease the commercial space at Grand River Station has gone through upward of 50 potential tenants.
The more than 12,000 square feet of space has presented some challenges for potential tenants.
“We've had a lot of small tenants who couldn't afford to lease in the space or they couldn't afford to do the build-out, and we've had people who have had a problem with the parking,” said Casey Weiss of Access Commercial Real Estate.
Weiss has been working with the space’s owner, Gorman and company, to fill the space.
“It kind of comes down to their track record, their financial strength and that sort of thing, and Care Wisconsin was really what we were looking for there,” said Weiss.
Care Wisconsin is a nonprofit based in Madison that provides long-term care for the elderly and people with disabilities.
The organization's regional director of long-term care programs, Jay Hein, said the location is a prime spot to help clients.
“No. 1, we wanted a place that would be accessible to our members,” said Jay Hein. “(In) downtown La Crosse, we're close to resources. We're right there where the buses are coming into the MTU station and we're also close to the local aging and disability resource center.”
The nonprofit currently serves 3,600 people throughout South Central Wisconsin.
Hein said there's a growing need in the La Crosse area.
“There are currently between 3,000 and 4,000 people in the eight-county region, with the majority of them being in the La Crosse area, who are accessing some kind of long-term care benefits,” said Hein.
About 6,500 square feet of space still remains vacant, but Weiss hopes with one tenant moving in, more will follow.
“It would be a good space for a lot of small type of retailers just because they have the doors to the lobby and the doors to the outside, so as far as dividing it, it worked out pretty well actually,” said Weiss.
Robin Moses of Downtown Mainstreet Inc. said working to fill empty store fronts in downtown is important, but it's also key to fill the store fronts with a little bit of something for everyone.
“I think what makes a really strong downtown is when there's a strong mix of businesses,” said Moses. “We have to have our retail shops, and we need to have great places to dine and to eat, which we really do, but all of those things are fueled by employees who work in the downtown district, and we have some large corporate businesses that have relocated downtown in the recent years.”
Construction should start in the next week or so.
Care Wisconsin is hoping to move in at the beginning of September.
Weiss said there is some interest from a national retail franchise in the 4,800 square feet of space available on the north side of the building that seems promising.