City officials are hoping to breathe new life into La Crosse with a proposed north side development next summer.
The 12 acres of vacant land sitting at the corner of St. Andrews and George Streets has been virtually unused since 1997, when Trane abandoned its manufacturing plant there. The plant has since been demolished, and now city officials are entering into a purchase agreement that would replace the weeds and empty space with a multimillion-dollar development.
The land is currently owned by La Crosse Industrial Park Corporation - a partnership between the City of La Crosse, Xcel Energy and the La Crosse Area Development Corporation. The partnership is in purchasing talks with Borton-360 that would sell the parcel of land for $1.9 million.
Borton-360 has proposed building a mixed-use development that would comprise about 60 low-income apartments and space for retail. Preliminary estimates place the development's value at about $18 million.
Mayor Tim Kabat said the development would bring revitalization to the city's north side.
"It's going to be turning vacant property, in essence, to productive use," he said. "It really would be almost a rebirth of that area compared to what it was."
North side residents said space for small businesses it just what their community needs.
"We lost a number of small businesses on the north side, because they just didn't have the space," said Randy Eddy, president of the North La Crosse Merchants Association. "I think this is a major thing for the north side, and for the community in general."
Kabat said the development could generate tax revenues of more than $10 million once it's constructed. But he added it's not just about increasing the tax base - it's about investing in the La Crosse community.
"We're not able to expand and grow outward. We have to grow and develop from within, and this [development] is very consistent with that strategy of rebirth and revitalizing areas."
Construction on the development is expected to begin in the summer of 2014, but there are some hurdles to be jumped first.
The land is still being decontaminated after years of chemicals from the Trane plant leaked into the soil. That project is largely finished, and city officials said they'll continue with plans while the remainder of the land is cleaned up.
City Council also has to approve the purchase agreement. Kabat said committees will take up the measure within the next few months.