La Crosse Center expansion concept designs to be revealed Wednesday

The new concept designs for the La Crosse Center expansion project will be released during a public meeting Wednesday. A previous concept was vetoed by the mayor in June over concerns about going into Riverside Park and an additional $7.2 million in funding needed for the project.

Despite the setback, center board members said the pause button is off and they are ready to move ahead.

“It’s been a long ride,” said Brent Smith, chair of the La Crosse Center board.

About four or five years ago, the La Crosse Center board began exploring a remodeling and expansion project.

“We’re a 40-year-old building. It needs a facelift,” said Art Fahey, executive director of the La Crosse Center.

The board hired architects to create some concepts and an economic impact study of the project.

“It said what kind of size do we need to have to make this a viable product so that when we sell it we know we can make some money on it so that we are continuing to deliver the bottom line to the city,” Fahey said.

After drawing up the plans and multiple public meetings, they narrowed it down to one option, but that was vetoed. However, board members say the consultants were not sent back to square one.

“Instead of a four and a half year process of coming up with a new concept to bring before the council, it’s going to be about a four-month process,” Smith said.

The consultants have been building on the work they’ve already completed while trying to honor the original budget and goals for the project.

“There’s a strong desire to still have the vista of the river and how we incorporate that. There’s a possibility of an adjacent property and that’s a new entry into what we’re looking at,” Fahey said.

Now, the La Crosse Center board is ready to debut what they’ve been working on the last five months. Once they feel they have the best concept, they’ll bring it to the common council for approval once again.

“Once the council says, ‘Yes, we like that concept,’ the next phase is to do the design work to actually design what this project would look like,” Smith said.

That would pave the way to put the project out for bids, putting an end date in sight. The center board members said some of the remodeling work may be done sooner than the expansion portion. They’re hoping to have some of that work done next year. The goal right now is to have the entire expansion project completed by early 2021.

To see the new plans or give input on the design, the public meeting will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. The meeting will take place at La Crosse Center Ballroom on the south side of the building. More information can be found here.

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