One of La Crosse's last undeveloped pieces of land is now on the table for officials to decide what to do with it.
About 65 acres of land on Copeland Avenue, also known as the Mobile Oil site, has lain dormant for several years. Exxon Mobile spent weeks decontaminating a strip of the land last fall, and now the city is moving forward with plans to do something with it.
"This is really a legacy type project, once in a generation, once in a lifetime,” said Mayor Tim Kabat. “It has tremendous opportunity, and it’s something we have to get right.”
For a city with a confined amount of space to grow in, this piece of land offers developers the chance to grow La Crosse upward.
“We can't grow out in terms of the river, the bluffs,” Larry Kirch, the city’s planning director said.
It’s not a new concept. La Crosse has spent the last several decades expanding upward by recycling old properties to create new spaces.
"The building we're sitting in now, this was part of a redevelopment project,” Kirch said, referring to City Hall. “The city has had a redevelopment authority for over 45 years."
The next leg of that redevelopment sits on those 65 acres on La Crosse's north side. It's nothing but space now, but developers are hoping it will become the city's next iconic location.
"It could be a new neighborhood, it could be a mix of housing, we don't know,” Kirch said.
Deciding just what to do with the space is the next step, starting Thursday at the first of a series of public meetings to brainstorm.
Kirch isn’t sure what exactly will take the space, though he anticipates some
"We've used public dollars to acquire all this property, so the public should have a say in what happens here."
Here in City Hall, excitement is already building - "This is a modern aerial photo..." - as planners lay out the blueprint - "This pond, it's just a natural area" - for what might grow here.
"I think there's a strong notion that the waterfront should be public, just like Riverside Park."
"Public access trails, I like the idea of some sort of a marina there..."
The options are unlimited for this city, fighting so long against close quarters.
"La Crosse has really transformed itself since the mid-90s, early 90s, and so this is just another piece of the puzzle as to why La Crosse is a great place."
Tomorrow is the first of three initial meetings on the land.
The conversation will center on the history of the area, and a summary of what's ahead for the project.
In May, city officials will begin considering what to build on those 65 acres.
Tomorrow's meeting is at Western Tech's Kumm Center at 7 p.m.