La Crosse Center expansion could mean business for downtown area

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - Plans for the proposed La Crosse Center expansion were discussed during a public input meeting Wednesday night. Some business owners are watching very carefully to see how the plans develop and the potential impact on the downtown area. 

The first part of the plan is to make updates inside the nearly 40-year-old-building. The second part would be to make an overhang toward the river. 

Art Fahey, the director for the La Crosse Center, said the big question revolves around a new space in Riverside Park. "[The overhang is] going to be going into the park, but then underneath, what multipurpose functions could we allow happening underneath there?" 

The plans haven't been finalized, but they're also looking at putting an atrium and new lobby area toward the downtown area. 

"It's gotten a little confusing and compartmentalized when you come into the building, so we want to clean that up a little bit, make it easier to get in and at the same time add more usable space," Fahey said.  

More space and maybe more visitors. It's the reason why TJ Peterslie has been watching closely. 

"We're neighbors, so of course we want to know what's going on in the neighborhood," said Peterslie, co-owner of The Pearl.  

He's hopeful the expansion will help maintain the historical connection of the downtown area to the riverfront. 

"This is the oldest commercial street in the city. So we want to make sure whatever is done, the flow is from the river to the city and the city to the river," Peterslie said. 

The streets are bustling with foot traffic any time there's an event at the center. 

"The downtown restaurants, the other downtown businesses, the  hotels, everybody does better," Peterslie said.  

But business might be even better if the expansion brings in more visitors. 

"The busier the La Crosse Center is, the more homemade ice cream we make, the more waffle cones we make, the more smiles we're able to put on people's faces," Peterslie said.  

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