City buys former drug house after 6-year battle for neighbors

La Crosse will pay $453,400 which is the assessed value of the property

A condemned apartment building with a history of drug problems is now owned by the city of La Crosse.

The complex on the city’s south side had been causing problems for years before a fire destroyed it last summer.

La Crosse police visited the 16-unit apartment building 138 times over a 19-month period and a few of the individual apartments were on the La Crosse Police Department’s chronic nuisance watch list.

Thursday night the La Crosse City Council voted to purchase the damaged building and neighbors could not be more happy.

“We couldn’t even have our children play in the front yard,” said Doyle Pleggenkuhle, who lives across the street from the apartment building.

Pleggenkuhle moved into his home on 22nd Street in La Crosse 20 years ago with his wife and six kids.

“In a few shorts years it turned into (the) drug capital of La Crosse,” Pleggenkuhle said.

The apartment complex across the street was causing problems. “It was one thing after another. Drugs, domestic violence,” Pleggenkuhle said. He said he was not going to stand for it.

“It was probably one of the worst places in town for drugs. I can’t imagine – if there are others we really need to get on them,” said Marilyn Wigdahl, District 12 representative for the La Crosse City Council.

“We took license plates, my wife spent countless hours with the narcotics officers,” Pleggenkuhle said.

After six years, his family’s hard – and sometimes dangerous work – finally paid off.

“Our goal really is to acquire the property, demolish the building and then repurpose that for probably two or maybe three single-family home lots,” said La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat.

The building has been condemned since a fire in mid-July. The property became available and the city scooped it up as part of its neighborhood revitalization efforts.

“There’s many steps we still need to take to make La Crosse the choice destination for people to live, and the quality of life and having great neighborhoods is obviously the foundation to that,” Kabat said.

“This is a nice, quiet south side neighborhood,” Pleggenkuhle said. He and his family tried selling their home three times to no avail. But now that the apartment building is going away, he said he and his family won’t be moving.

“We are feeling wonderful,” Pleggenkuhle said.

La Crosse is paying about $453,000 for the property. Kabat said the property costs that much because the city has to pay the assessed value of the property.

There are no official plans to begin the project, but Kabat hopes to demolish the building this summer.