Downtown street seeing fewer empty storefronts

It was once dark, but the lights are back on down 5th Avenue in downtown La Crosse.

The street has seen many empty storefronts in recent years, but those empty spaces are being filled.

In the past year, 10-15 new businesses have opened throughout downtown, and a lot of those have been on 5th Avenue.

Thursday night the businesses along that street are inviting everyone to come down and check out the Lights on 5th Avenue.

“I do event planning,” Crystal Layland who just opened her store in March. “Celebrations, weddings, galas. I also do custom invitations.”

Layland said when she saw her spot on 5th Avenue, she knew.

“It was the perfect size,” she said. “I was really excited. When I was preparing the store for opening I noticed other businesses popping up rather quickly.”

While Layland celebrates the grand opening of her store, all businesses along 5th Avenue are taking time to recognize just how far the area has come.

“I think there has been a concentrated increase of businesses on 5th Avenue this last year,” Robin Moses, executive director with Downtown Mainstreet, said.

Moses said 5th Avenue has some things working against it.

“Well it’s a little bit away from the core of downtown. Certainly when people come from a tourism standpoint they’re looking at Pearl Street, 3rd and 4th, Main Street,” Moses said.

But Moses says the number of people living in downtown La Crosse is increasing, which is helping businesses down 5th Avenue flourish.

“When you have more people moving into the second stories of the downtown businesses and more people living in the area, you see a lot more support for those service businesses and other specialty shops, and so we’ve really seen that here in this area,” Moses said.

Layland has noticed the same.

“It was just really exciting to know that there is more action going on, and there is a lot of foot traffic that I really didn’t realize until I was in here and kind of watching. It felt good to know that 5th Avenue is thriving,” she said

Moses said there are still about 20-25 empty storefronts throughout downtown, but she has at least five new businesses currently looking to move into those spaces.

The Light’s on 5th Avenue event is from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday night. The public is invited to stop down, shop, dine and see all the new businesses along the street.