Petition calls on La Crosse to stop demolition of historic Fire Station No. 4

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – A petition is calling on the La Crosse City Council to stop the Fire Department from demolishing Fire Station No. 4 on Gillette Street.

Preservation Alliance of La Crosse started the petition on change.org.

The group said the station has historic value and should be preserved, explaining in their petition, “the building is a cultural and economic asset that belongs to the taxpayers.”

Station No. 4 was built in 1940.

The petition stated that it could be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

In a statement released to News 8 Now Monday, the City of La Crosse Fire Department said the Mayor’s Fire Station Task Force submitted a recommendation to the council in 2018 to demolish and replace Stations No. 2 and No. 4 with new, modern facilities.

The department also said it’s “unfortunate that a group of people have waited until 2021 to raise concerns,” because the city has already invested more than $1 million into the project and it would be costly to change course now.

The petition addressed the idea to renovate the building instead of tearing it down: “Rather than spending money to demolish the building, the city could sell the building for redevelopment, making money from the sale, as well as making money indefinitely from the property taxes the building would generate.”

The Preservation Alliance lists housing, a restaurant, a firefighter museum, or an event venue as some potential uses for the building.

But the fire department said it has already considered ideas like these, and it’s not an investment the city can afford.

“We did assess the potential for repairing the old station or incorporating it into the new structure and that was determined to be too costly, especially when we have other fire stations in dire need of similar upgrades and replacement,” said Fire Chief Ken Gilliam.

The department said the new station will be larger and house two fire companies instead of one.

It will have space for water rescue and public education vehicles, in addition to administrative offices, the relocated Northside police station, and a new community room.

The project’s groundbreaking is set for this spring and is estimated to be completed in the spring of 2022.

The department said it will be releasing more design information to the public within the week.

This will be the city’s first new fire station since 1967, according to Chief Gilliam.