La Crosse business battles historic building guidelines

La Crosse business battles historic building guidelines

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) -- - One local business is trying to renovate its building in Downtown La Crosse.
However, the business owners have received some pushback from community leaders on the project. 

Grounded Specialty Coffee on Main Street sent an application to the Heritage Preservation Commission to remove the front entrance to the building. 

The owners of the business were denied because it goes against historic building standards set by the downtown district. 

The owner challenged the ruling at Thursday's city council meeting. The discussion generated some controversy between city organizations keeping the historic character of downtown buildings and business owners wanting to improve their space. 

"It's a little bit different from ordinary real estate," said Jessica Olson, chairman of the HPC and city council member. 

The HPC's job is to make sure local business owners in the downtown district keep their buildings up to code. 

"Our downtown is a huge tourist attraction for just its historic architecture," Olson said. 

Local leaders and members of the downtown community created a system of guidelines to preserve the historic characteristics of downtown building fronts. 

Grounded Specialty Coffee owner Maria Norberg wants to remove an entrance to her building she doesn't use. 
However, the HPC and local city planning experts say that entrance has historic value. 

"If the building can be functional and if it can offer that access that it does now, there's no need to remove what we have documented as an original characteristic of the building," Olson said. 

After the HPC denied the request, Norberg appealed the decision in front of the city council. 
Norberg said the space could hold another table and create more room for customers. 

"That's not my number one reason for wanting to do this but we are losing out, and it is a financial impact for us," Norberg said. 

Olson said there cannot be exceptions to the rules. 

"We don't want to set a precedent that suddenly opens the door for anyone who wants a waiver for financial benefit can just come into City Hall and get one," Olson said. "You have to make sure that everybody goes for what's good for the whole neighborhood and not necessarily their own personal pocketbook." 

The city council gave the appeal a 30-day referral so the council can weigh all options before making a final decision. 

"I love this downtown and I have spent a lot of money in trying to improve it and I intend to keep improving it," Norberg said. 

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