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La Crosse County works on development options for downtown parking lot

By Carrie Vick, cvick@wkbt.com
Published On: Nov 01 2013 05:31:12 PM CDT
Updated On: Nov 01 2013 07:16:44 PM CDT
Proposed changes to parking lot in front of courthouse

WKBT, News8000.com

LA CROSSE, WI -

If you drive through downtown La Crosse, you can't miss the large parking lot that stretches out in front of the La Crosse County Courthouse.

After years of discussion about what to do with the space, county officials say they could be getting closer to forming some concrete plans.

County planners recently hired a consultant to do a market study to figure out what the needs are in downtown La Crosse.

It gave them some ideas of what private developers might want to build if given the chance.

The parking lot across from the La Crosse County Courthouse gets a lot of use. But it's also prime downtown real estate.

"I think everyone recognizes having just a vacant surface lot like that in our downtown, is an underutilized space and we really need to have development there," said La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat.

The lot is an option for a new County Administrative Center, but even if officials did decide to build on that lot, they'd still have room for neighbors.

"We would still have space to offer up for private development which would make sense to offer up to build tax base," said County community development specialist Brian Fukuda.

Fukuda said a market study shows private developers are interested in the lot.

"The uses that were mentioned in that market assessment were primarily a hotel, there is significant demand for a hotel to add the downtown market and market rate housing, affordable housing. Those were some uses talked about," said Fukuda.

Fukuda said as plans take shape, it will be important to work with the city.

"It's their tax base. It's the land within their boundaries and we really want to be a partner in that way," said Fukuda.

"The potential benefits are huge because right now it's an entire city block that's a tax exempt," said Kabat.

But if something is built on the parking lot, the county will need to find a way to compensate for the lost parking spaces.

"We have about 280 parking stalls in that lot and in any given day the majority of them are used," said Fukuda.

Which adds another piece to the complicated puzzle of how to best use that space.

"It's a complex project and something the county isn't often faced with," said Fukuda.

Fukuda says there are other options for parking other than building a ramp on that lot.

The county could possibly work with Western Technical College on an agreement to use some of its new parking ramp, or work with the post office to get some extra space as well.

Fukuda said the market analysis will be presented to the County Board on Monday.

That's also when they'll be looking over the cost estimates for options on what to do with the county's aging administrative center.

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