Redevelopment project has potential to bring new life to north side

Developers tackle former Buzz's Bike's building

Redevelopment project has potential...

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - A project renovating an historic building on La Crosse's north side promises to bring new life to the neighborhood.

Much of the former Buzz's Bikes building on Rose Street has sat empty for several years, and the city has put money into maintaining it.

The city sold the building for $10 to its new developers, who are planning to transform the 130-year-old building into retail space and apartments, potentially spurring further development in the neighborhood.

"Coming over the viaduct, this is a very iconic building,” Ryan Johnson of RMD Development said.

It is an iconic building, but it's one that's also become a bit of an eyesore.

"This building is considered the worst in the intersection or around here,” La Crosse senior planner Tim Acklin said.

Acklin said the former Buzz's Bike's building contributes to what's called the "broken window effect."

"When you see a building in this shape, people tend to not care about what surrounding properties may look like,” he said.

Buzz's Bikes, taking up half the building, has been gone since 2015. The other half of the building has been empty for even longer.

"We've got a major project on our hands, but we're excited about it,” Johnson said.

He and three other business partners are working with about 2,400 square feet per floor, and plan to make the first floor retail space and the top floor high-end apartments, all while refurbishing the building's historic elements.

"We're going to try to emphasize and bring them back to life,” Johnson said.

“(The front) wall will be all glass, taking it back to its historic appearance,” architect Marcus Zettler said.

All involved hope the redeveloped building will have a reverse broken window effect in the neighborhood.

"Just this domino effect of other people getting out and working on their buildings, and realizing the potential that's there,” Acklin said.

"We're just excited to take it to the next level,” Johnson said. “Get it back on tax roll, add value to north side and have it be one of those buildings when you come over the viaduct, it really starts to be a north side gem."

Despite the $10 selling price for the building, Acklin said it was a smart sale, because the building will get restored, and the city will make money back over the years in property taxes it wasn't getting when the building was empty.

Developers will start by working on the exterior of the building, and hope to have the project wrapped up in a couple years.

The developers have experience in historic renovations, and Johnson has been involved with La Crosse projects including B.A. Burrito, State Room and Howie's.

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