City of La Crosse to start conversation with developers over Riverside North

City to accept developers' 'Request for Expression of Interest' proposals

The city of La Crosse is getting the ball rolling on finding developers for the Riverside North development, a plan that’s been in the works for years.

The city will begin accepting “Request for Expression of Interest” proposals, or informal proposals from a developer showing interest and what they’d like to do with the site.

Although the downtown area, a former Mobil oil site, has been virtually unused for decades, La Crosse Director of Planning and Development Jason Gilman said it is a prime piece of real estate.

“The site is somewhat unpresented. To have a 70-acre site, 30 or 40 which is developable, with adjacencies to three rivers and a marsh complex is almost unheard of,” he said. “Especially centrally in the downtown area.”

Planners are using input from 2014 charrettes to continue with their vision.
“It’s important to have public input, public participation, a sense of ownership, and for one you might get ideas you didn’t think of,” said La Crosse Senior Planner Tim Acklin, who took community opinions from the charrettes to develop the project’s plan.

The plan will include residential and commercial areas to fit with the rest of downtown, but also plenty of green space to compliment the natural environment. Gilman also hopes the development will improve one of the main “gateways” to the city.

“This is one of the main gateways, if not the main gateway, to the city,” said Gilman. “So that first impression is so important. This will play a big role in that.”

The Redevelopment Authority will hold a meeting at 4:30 p.m. Thursday to start the process of interviewing developers. Gilman said the next stage, where a developer submits a Request for Proposal (RFP), would likely not be until 2017, and the project has several years before it will be complete.

“Lots of people asking where we’re at with [the project],” said Acklin. “It’s just good to realize that it’s a slow process.”

But planners say that it will be worth it.

 “If we can add residents, we can add other businesses to just keep it moving forward in terms of development and improving,” said Acklin. “It can’t be anything but good for the city.”