La Crosse neighbors frustrated with U-Haul moving into old K-Mart site

La Crosse residents concerned old K-Mart site could become industrial property
Uhaul Local Reax

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Community members are upset with the situation at the former K-Mart site. U-Haul is currently doing business out of the building.
Something neighbors in the area do not want. But they may not have much of a choice.

People with decades of living experience in La Crosse carry a lot of pride.

“Since 1978,” La Crosse resident Wendy Butler said.

Pride found with a visit to Butler’s home along Heritage Court.

“It is lovely. It is a very nice neighborhood,” Butler said.

Her neighborhood is a short walk’s distance from the old K-Mart store on Losey Boulevard.

“People were very optimistic,” she said.

Butler spoke about the excitement of her community regarding the potential future of the K-Mart building. La Crosse city council member Gary Padesky said he wanted a mix of retail and residential at the site.

So far, U-Haul is the company making its presence known.

“It’s been kind of secretive up to the last few weeks as far as what was going on.” Padesky said. “There is a place for U-Haul but not that site.”

U-Haul is leasing the site right now according to La Crosse Director of Planning Andrea Trane. However, officials with U-Haul told News 8 Now they purchased the property.

“The city can’t stop who buys this property,” Padesky said.

Butler spoke to family in other cities. She showed photos of what U-Haul did to vacant commercial properties. One example she showed is in Flint Michigan.

“It has looked very, very industrial,” Butler said.

U-Haul’s President for Southwestern Wisconsin Adam Sonnleitner said in an email to the city, “We have worked with 100s of cities across the U.S. and we would love to be part of your city in a more modern fashion as we have outgrown our existing location on Rose St.”

Sonnleitner showed designs of possible U-Haul buildings. The way the property is zoned right now, U-Haul is within its right to sell products. The council needs to approve a rezoning if U-Haul changes its business model.

“If they wanted to look at starting to rent out their fleet, do truck rentals or do self-storage, that would then require a rezoning,” Trane said.

Padesky said he is not for rezoning the property.

“I don’t see a rezoning going through with this current council and mayor,” Padesky said. “Everybody wants to see something done there but it’s gotta be the right thing,” Padesky said.

No one we spoke to is against U-Haul, just the time and the place of its business in town.

“It’s very disappointing if that goes through,” Butler said.

No paperwork is filed right now for rezoning. The Bluffside Neighborhood Association scheduled a meeting Monday to discuss the site further.