Historic downtown La Crosse buildings expand upward

Nearly 14 businesses in past year have turned their once vacant 2nd, 3rd floors into new, usable spaces

La Crosse business owners are creating a whole new layer to the downtown area by adding living spaces, shops, and venues to upper levels of buildings.

Nearly 14 businesses in the past year have turned their once vacant second and third floors into new and usable spaces.

Business owners are renovating because it’s cost effective thanks to a “historic tax credit” and the upper floor renovation loan program, but also because they want to bring historic pieces of La Crosse back to life.

Debra Lash has always gravitated towards things with a little history.

“I like old buildings and I’ve always bought more old furniture,” Lash said.

So when she became business owner it made sense to set up shop in a 121-year-old building.

“I like to be a part of history,” Lash said.

For years, Lash has ran The Wedding Tree in the downtown La Crosse building’s first and second floors, but she always dreamed of updating the third floor, a former YWCA gymnasium.

“Just the gym floor is 3000 square feet and I said,‘Wow this should be a place for wedding receptions,'” Lash said.

After talking to bridal clients she knew it was the right business move.

“They would be like ‘Oh my gosh! When? Can we do it now?” Lash said.

She’s already started renovations, but in keeping with historic tax credit guidelines many things will remain.

“It’s the same floors, it’s the same walls, the bar is going to be where their locker room was,” Lash said.

Robin Moses of Downtown Main Street La Crosse said this is just the beginning.

“Anytime you’re taking advantage of an unused area, it’s good for the economy.” Moses said. “We have an incredibly large historic downtown district with many buildings that can have growth in their second and third floors, so it’s definitely an exciting thing.”

While Lash admits it would’ve been easier to start from scratch, she’s happy to continue the buildings life.

“We are bringing it back not only in a new way but in the way it was,” Lash said.

For more information on all of downtown La Crosse’s buildings go to Larossedowntown.com.