Former La Crosse Plow site to join downtown’s building boom

Property to be refurbished into apartments, commercial space, parking

Downtown La Crosse has seen a number of new hotels, businesses and apartment buildings go up in the past few years, and it looks like that building boom is going to continue with a new downtown project.

The historic Plow building site in downtown La Crosse near the Oktoberfest grounds hasn’t been used for anything but storage in years. But now, its owners, the Cleary family is requesting a tax incremental financing loan from the city to turn the property into 72 apartments, along with parking for the tenants and room for commercial space.

City officials said the $25 million to $30 million project would build upon momentum from other efforts to revitalize our downtown.

The site has two connected buildings, a three-story brick building and one story white building, which have a long history together.

“The plow works were purchased in 1929 by Allis Chalmers, and the three-story building was built by Allis Chalmers in 1938,” Sandra Cleary, vice president of Cleary Management Corporation, said.

But in this century, Cleary said it’s been vacant for about 20 years.

Now, as new hotels and apartment buildings go up around it, Cleary is happy to have these buildings join the boom, with the red brick building being refurbished into apartments.

“I think people will find it’s really amazing inside,” she said. “All brick, tall ceilings.”

Though plans may still change, Cleary said, “Currently we’re planning on doing mixed commercial and retail on the first floor, residential on second and third floor, lofts and have 12 penthouse lofts on the (new fourth) floor.”

City planners said the residential space is a necessary addition, and part of the downtown’s building boom is in response to baby boomers downsizing, and young professionals, looking to live downtown.

“The stars are aligning right now,” Jason Gilman, director of planning and development for the city of La Crosse said. “You’ve got activity and vibrancy all the time because you have people living and residing right in downtown.”

“We’re right at a critical point in the city’s history and seeing a strong momentum of new development and this would fit right into that,” Mayor Tim Kabat said.

To fund the project, the Cleary family requested a TIF loan from the city. The site’s historical designation may also qualify them for both state and federal tax credits.

Kabat said the owners of the site will have a more detailed request for the city in the next month or so. After all plans are set, construction would take about a year, so Kabat said it will be at least 2018 before people move in.