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Grand River Station close to its first commercial tenant

LA CROSSE, Wis. -- Nearly two years after opening its doors in La Crosse, the retail space at the Grand River Station still remains empty, but it may be closer than ever to its first commercial tenants.

The more than 12,000 square feet of retail space at the Grand River Station presents some challenges unique to just about any other vacant storefront in the city, but it's all about timing and finding the right tenant.

"That is a challenge," said Ted Matkom, development manager of Gorman and Company. "Any new retail the first person is the hardest."

Matkom is the development manager of Gormany and Company, a housing development business that signed a 10-year lease with the city three years ago for the two spots.

The company is in charge of finding the tenants, but with paying about $65,000 a year and no takers so far, the company is losing money.


"The build-out for any new kind of raw space like that is substantial," said Matkom. "You really have to have a tenant who's willing to sign a five to 10-year lease, not really a year lease. So, it's a little hard to find a tenant who wants to commit to a 10-year lease."

"I would say we were close with one, but that didn't work out," said Casey Weiss of Access Commercial Real Estate. "We do have two prospects right now that I do feel pretty good about."

Weiss has been working with Gorman and company since this fall to fill the spaces. He said it's all about timing.

"The economic timing is the biggest thing, but I think the other issues is that tenants come down here, and are looking for space are having a little trouble getting financing for new businesses still," said Weiss. "We're seeing that in the market with not just this space, but other ones as well."

Tim Kabat, executive director of Downtown Mainstreet, said these spaces are the two newest of about 35 vacant storefronts in the city.

Kabat said these spaces have all the potential to be successful -- it's located on one of the busiest traffic streets in downtown and there are also a lot of people in both the apartments on the upper floors, as well as the people who use the MTU bus station connected to the space.

Kabat said it just might be the new space itself.

"Right now it's just very raw space," said Kabat. "Any time you're showing a raw space to a possible tenant, it can be difficult for those tenants to envision that you know, 'OK, basically this can be built out, or this can be finished, or just what the finished product looks like.'"

Kabat said it's just a waiting game for the right tenant to come along.

"We work on every other storefront just like that one," said Kabat. "So it's just a matter of time. Especially with that being a new space, it doesn't have some of the code issues or some of the challenges of working in some of the historic buildings, so that should be a positive for getting it leased up."

While both Weiss and Matkom see the unfinished look as potential, everyone agrees it will take the right tenants to come and see the benefits.

Weiss also said the price for leasing the two spaces has dropped from $12 a square foot to $6. He also said they're willing to negotiate things like free rent or help with the build-up of the raw space to make it more appealing to tenants.

If everything works out, the real estate company said Grand River Station should have its first commercial tenants by the end of the year.

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