LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - As Kmart on La Crosse's south side is closing along with more than 70 Sears Holdings stores across the country, city officials are looking forward to the site’s potential redevelopment.
The city's Kmart, located off of the intersection of Losey Boulevard and State Road, has been a fixture in its neighborhood since it first opened its doors more than 50 years ago in 1965.
Some neighborhood residents are sad to see it go.
"It was always a convenient, fun place to shop,” neighborhood resident Jeff Arneson said.
He makes the three-minute drive to Kmart about once a week.
Arneson has lived in the area for sixty years and doesn't know the neighborhood without Kmart.
"It was here, yes,” he said. “I had wanted to work here when I was in high school."
Now he'll have to adjust.
"It's just a sad situation,” Arenson said.
“I was just sad,” common council member Gary Padesky said, of when he first heard the news.
Representing the city's seventh district where the Kmart is located, Padesky said the big box store closing up will mean a big change.
"My dad started (working) there when the store opened in '65, He was there nine years,” he said. “It's part of the neighborhood. It's a fixture. It's like an old pair of jeans, getting worn but comfortable to have around."
As they say, however, when one door closes, another opens.
"That door is closing, but what can we do now to serve the city … that would open many more doors?” city planner Tim Acklin asked.
Acklin said there’s still a lot the city doesn’t know, but if the Kmart site goes up for sale, he'd like to see a mixed use development with commercial and residential opportunity, along with a bike- and pedestrian-friendly environment.
Acklin said the site’s location at a busy intersection makes it a prime location for redevelopment.
"There's always a large potential of change, positive change, when you have a reinvestment or redevelopment of a very large site,” he said.
Change is sure to come in the neighborhood.
"I hope for the best,” Arneson said.
"I'll miss ya, Big K,” Padesky said.
The Kmart is slated to close in early September, 52 years to the month after it first opened.
The store will begin a liquidation sale on June 15.
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