Pine Street Parking Ramp

The new parking ramp on Third and Pine streets includes commercial space, but it’s unclear what businesses will inhabit it.

Peter Thomson, La Crosse Tribune

The city of La Crosse agreed Tuesday to take on its new parking ramp on Third and Pine streets.

The La Crosse Common Council voted unanimously to give final approval to an agreement to purchase the $17.2 million Pine Street ramp after a series of special meetings, adding 606 spaces of public parking to downtown La Crosse just in time for Oktoberfest.

The approval is the culmination of an agreement the city entered into with a Don Weber-owned company in December 2015. Third and Pine LLC, the company owned by Logistics Health Inc. founder and CEO Weber, developed the ramp on the former Collins Outdoor Advertising property at 325 N. Third St., on the condition the city would purchase it upon completion.

Common Council president Martin Gaul called the ramp “an appropriate investment” that will support the development of downtown La Crosse.

“I think we made the appropriate decision back in 2015, and it’s coming to fruition, and that’s a good thing,” Gaul said.

La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat put the approval on the fast track, holding special meetings to allow the deal to before the end of September, which not only accommodates Third and Pine LLC but also allows public parking in the ramp as soon as this weekend for Oktoberfest.

“As you can imagine, once the ramp is finished, the developer is looking to turn it over as quickly as possible, rather than hanging onto that for a period of time,” Kabat said.

Assuming the closing scheduled for later this week goes forward as planned, drivers in town for Oktoberfest will be able to park for free in the ramp, according to La Crosse parking utility coordinator Jim Flottmeyer.

“After we take possession of it, it’ll be for permits and then it’ll be a three-hour time zone,” Flottmeyer said, which means people will be able to park for up to three hours at no charge but will need to move their cars after that.

As in the other city-owned ramps, three-hour time limit does not apply from 6 p.m. Friday through 6 a.m. Monday.

“(The new ramp) is designed wonderfully. It’s well-lit. It’ll be a nice addition to our facilities,” Flottmeyer said.

The city will borrow the $17.2 million for the ramp, following the plan laid out two years ago.

“There were some tweaks to, in essence, ensure that we would enjoy the tax exempt borrowing for the vast majority of the ramp, so our legal department worked with our bond council and the developer to get those things addressed,” Kabat said.

While the bonding associated with the parking portion of the project is tax exempt, the bonding to pay for the commercial space along Third Street will not be.

The council also approved a condominium plat, which separates out which areas will remain city property and which will be private.

“The city was not going to be in the business of trying to own or operate commercial property, that was going to be up to the private sector,” Kabat said.

The 2nd Street Hair Gallery salon announced earlier this month it plans to move into one of the spaces in mid-November; however, it’s not yet clear what other businesses will inhabit the commercial space.

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Jourdan Vian is a reporter and columnist covering local government and city issues for the La Crosse Tribune. You can contact her at 608-791-8218.

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