La Crosse city, county officials mull collaboration to buy Chamber of Commerce building to fight homelessness

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — The La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce building could have a new purpose, if a proposal county and city officials comes to pass.

The building is up for sale, with a price tag of more than $2 million, and the city and the county are proposing a collaboration that would hopefully end homelessness.

The Econo Lodge on La Crosse’s north side is helping keep homeless individuals warm for the winter.

But county board Chairwoman Monica Kruse says the hotel is just the short-term solution.

“It’s not in a good location,” Kruse said. “It’s way out there. It’s away from where people are.”

The county is renting rooms at the Econo Lodge.

The city also is pitching in some money to rent rooms at the motel, Kruse said, adding, “That’s not cheap.”

The county and city propose buying the Chamber building at 601 Seventh St. N., just off of La Crosse Street.

The property would not be just a winter rental but also would house county staff and other community services.

The city and county would pay to build transitional housing for the homeless on the same site.

“We’re trying to make sure that maybe a couple years from now, there are no more homeless because they’ve all found places to live,” Kruse said.

Pic Homeless Initative Collab

At a committee meeting Wednesday, officials said the city and the county would chip in to buy the property and pay for future construction using American Rescue Plan Act funds.

La Crosse Mayor Mitch Reynolds said the county would own and operate the building.

“Makes it very clear to the community that this is a top priority for us, and will continue to be so for years to come,” Reynolds said.

The plans are in the early stages, and nothing is official, Kruse said.

“But in the long run, buying a property I think makes more sense than renting one,” Kruse said.

It’s a collaboration that Kruse says could help save money and end one of the Coulee Region’s biggest problems.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Kruse said. “But it’s also a fiscally smart thing to do, we feel.”

If the proposal comes to fruition, Kruse said she thinks Chamber staff would move into a smaller space somewhere else.

The city council and county board would need to approve the proposal to buy the building, Reynolds said.

Recent News Headlines from News 8 Now  
CDC takes over La Crosse area COVID-19 genome sequencing after grant money runs out 

Registration opens for La Crosse Marathon — set for May

La Crosse police investigating North Side shooting 
UW-La Crosse offers former students $1,000 grants to return for spring semester