|La Crosse transit center to become a reality
By Samantha Marcus
La Crosse Tribune, October 6, 2007
Residential component or not, La Crosse officials are poised to break ground on the $10.7 million transit center in December.
The Great River Station’s long history includes more than 12 years of stymied negotiations and funding.
“Nothing about this project has ever been easy,” said Keith Carlson, transit manager for the Municipal Transit Utility. “It’s been a very long road, and it’s so important to our transit riders and our ability to serve our customers.”
With ridership at an all-time high, Carlson said, a safer and centralized bus transfer station is crucial. Currently, city buses congregate at an unprotected downtown corner.
The schedule calls for construction bids to go out in November, with completion in January 2009.
The building site on Third, King and Jay streets has been primed for construction since 2005, with buildings razed and the site cleared.
Progress was delayed, however, by the housing portion of the project, Carlson said.
Sherman & Associates was slated to take on the development until it failed to secure affordable-housing tax credits. Then negotiations with Gerrard Corp. for a market-rate housing development fell through.
At that point, Carlson said, the transit utility chose to proceed with the project and incorporate housing down the line.
But the residential component is still in the picture.
Chris Laurent, a senior development manager with Gorman & Co. Inc., said the developer and city are weeks away from finalizing a development agreement for the apartments and condominiums, which will be located on the top floors of the project.
Gorman recently partnered with Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center on the Gund Brewery Lofts.
Their priority after nailing down the contract, Laurent said, will be securing Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development tax credits.
The final product will be funded with a hodgepodge of city, federal and developer dollars.
The city opted for private development and housing to generate additional tax base and encourage downtown revitalization, Carlson said.
A live/work concept for the development is especially appealing, said Tim Kabat, a senior planner with the city.
“It’s pretty new to La Crosse,” he said, and “I definitely believe there is a market for it.”
Gorman has a wealth of experience in mixed-use projects, he added. “In the end, that put them over the top.”
Anchored by the transit center, the final product will include three floors of residential units for rent or sale, 99 parking spaces, 15,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, and 15,000 square feet of office space.
The transit station itself features an eight-bay bus loading area, waiting area and climate -controlled passenger station.
Jefferson Lines will lease space in the new facility as well.