New zoning district could bring in business to La Crosse's northside

City hopes new zoning district means business near Bridgeview Plaza

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - To bring new development to La Crosse's north side, the city is hoping to create a new zoning district. The goal is to encourage reinvestment in the area around Bridgeview Plaza. 

The proposed zoning district is one of three that city officials are considering, but this area is considered to be a top priority. That's because this is part of the city's broader plan to reinvigorate this part of the north side. 

The city recognized the need for new development in September 2016, when the Highway 53 Corridor Master Plan was being developed

"The Bridgeview Plaza area was the No. 1 area that people wanted to see redeveloped. And that was even before Shopko announced their closures," said Andrea Schnick, economic development planner for La Crosse. 

Schnick said she's in contact with the plaza owners for other opportunities.

"There's movement in terms of discussions and putting out ideas and making, again, that communication and those connections with people who are interested in and the people who currently own the site," Schnick said.

3 Amigos Property Management confirmed to News 8 that it bought the Burger King site and plans on creating a new apartment building. That fits into the city's master plan. 

"There are a lot of underutilized parcels in that area. There's a lot of needs in our community for things such as housing and business growth, so we're looking at ways we can incorporate the two needs," said Schnick on the importance of targeting this area.  

One of the ways to encourage this type of investment is through the Bridgeview Neighborhood Center Zone Overlay District, which would allow other developers to plan for mixed-use properties, without jumping through all the hoops of rezoning requirements.

"If you need to do a land assembly with three or four lots and they're all zoned differently, each one of those lots requires a separate public hearing," said Jason Gilman, director of planning and development for La Crosse.

All the time and the financial hurdles make it difficult for redevelopers to take a chance on properties.

"It makes it nearly impossible for a developer to actually pull together a good redevelopment project without taking a lot of risk," Gilman said.  

Gillman said this new overlay district will help generate more interest from potential developers on vacant retail sites so they don't sit empty for years. 

"It levels the playing field for people who are going to do redevelopment so they don't have that issue of five different sites that are all zoned differently and they have to go through a long, drawn-out and uncertain future in terms of assembly land for redevelopment," Gilman said.

There are a number of other programs and initiatives that the city has introduced to revitalize the area. Schnick said the city has been working on streetscaping and wayfinding improvements such as new signage. The city has also expanded a grant program that helps store owners make updates to the facades on their businesses. 

The City Planning Commission will meet on Monday to talk about this new proposed zoning district. 

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