City receives proposals for Roosevelt Elementary redevelopment

North side students will be moving into a brand-new school this fall, as North Side Elementary opens its doors – and now the future of their old stomping grounds is moving forward as well.

Both the city and the La Crosse School District are taking a look at their options to re-purpose Roosevelt Elementary into apartments. So far, three different developers have approached city officials with plans to redevelop the building in mixed-income housing, although one project has already been thrown out.

Aside from finding a new purpose for the historic building, city officials say it could offer residents a type of housing that’s severely lacking in La Crosse.

“We’ve heard through our analysis there’s definitely a lack of both affordable rental housing but more specifically rental new housing in our community that’s safe and quality housing,” said Caroline Neilsen, community development block grant administrator for the city.

According to one estimate by Neilsen, for every 64 people searching for housing that fits their income within the city, there’s only one apartment available.

The Roosevelt redevelopment would provide around 44 more apartments for those people, should the city move forward with a developer’s offer.

“People are really excited especially in La Crosse with how old our homes are, to get something brand new,” Neilsen said.

The proposals would re-purpose the school into apartment buildings, with rent running from $600 to $1,100 for one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom units. The projects also called for potentially adding townhomes in the playground space.

“The numbers ranged from $7 million of new development that you can possibly see on that site,” Mayor Tim Kabat said. “We want to be supportive and see Roosevelt turn into something that the neighborhood is proud of, that’s back on the tax base.”

Both the city and the school district are going through the vetting process of these developers separately – meaning in theory, they could choose different developers or different projects for the future of Roosevelt Elementary. If that does happen, Mayor Kabat says the city would just shift its chosen project to a new site somewhere else in La Crosse, so that both could still move forward.

School district officials were expected to move forward with their vetting process Monday.

Once a developer is chosen, construction would likely start in late 2015, with a finished project slated for sometime in 2016, according to Kabat.