Washburn Neighborhood residents object to new 12-unit apartment building

The former Big Brothers Big Sisters of the 7 Rivers Region building has been vacant for nearly two years

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – On Tuesday night, the Judiciary & Administration Committee accepted the recommendation of the city’s Planning Commission Monday night to deny a developer’s plans to raze a commercial building at Fifth Avenue and Division Street and replace it with a 12-unit apartment building.

Washburn Neighborhood residents had objected to the plans, expressing fears that the multi-unit building would result in crime and drug use.

The Planning Commission decision, subject to final Common Council Action, had run contrary to city staff’s recommendation.

The building, which has been vacant for almost two years, previously housed the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the 7 Rivers Region.

The developers had estimated the project cost at about $1.2 million, with rental units costing $750 to $850 a month for one and two bedrooms.

Aaron Wickesberg, representing the developer, said he understood the resistance, based on past experience, adding, “The reality is, people do deserve a second chance.”

Councilmember Gary Padesky expressed hope that the developer would return with another plan in the future, and “I hope a future council will consider that work.”

Councilmember Christine Kahlow expressed similar sentiments about the developer, noting, “If the neighborhood is taken care of better, maybe next time.”

The committee also approved a site analysis proposed for a proposed La Crosse Public Market for a site adjoining the Oktoberfest on property Xcel Energy now owns.

City Planning Director Andrea Trane said she anticipates the availability of federal funding for the project.

Mayor Tim Kabat encouraged the committee and Common Council to move the market plan forward, saying, “Few times we can approve a move toward something that will be truly transformational. We need to look at this as a five-,10- or 20-year project.”