Western, Mayo, Hillview plan greenhouse on Ivy Motel site

2012-10-30T00:00:00Z 2012-10-30T06:08:41Z Western, Mayo, Hillview plan greenhouse on Ivy Motel siteBy ALLISON GEYER / ageyer@lacrossetribune.com La Crosse Tribune

Sustainable urban agriculture could soon take root in downtown La Crosse, thanks to a creative solution by a community partnership.

Western Technical College, Hillview Urban Agriculture Center and Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare announced Monday that they are teaming up to create the the Urban Landscape and Agriculture Center at Seventh and Vine streets.

The greenhouse, which will occupy WTC’s former Ivy Motel residence hall, will lease its space to HUAC at a reduced rate.

In return, HUAC will donate its land on North 24th Street to Western, which will tear down the old greenhouse and build and sell five energy-efficient, single-family homes on the five lots.

The proposed $1.6 million facility would not only be an educational resource for the college but also a year-round community space used for promoting public health and a gathering place for activities and service learning.

“What a win-win opportunity this is for Western, for Hillview, for Mayo and for the whole community,” said Lee Rasch, president of Western Technical College. “We’re absolutely delighted.”

The opportunity for the collaboration began to take shape about two years ago, said Leann Carson, president of HUAC.

The organization’s greenhouse on 24th Street in La Crosse had become dilapidated and out of date, she said, and the high cost of operation didn’t make sense.

“It cost $13,000 a month for heating to grow tomatoes,” she said. “That’s not sustainable.”

Western has previously leased space at the Hillview Greenhouse for its landscape horticulture program but wanted a more permanent space. The college couldn’t buy the existing property, but it could build a new one, Carlson said.

And when Mayo Clinic Health System heard about HUAC’s $220,000 mortgage, it stepped up and issued a challenge grant for $110,000, which the La Crosse Community Foundation matched.

“We are what we eat, so as a health care organization we are so committed to trying to improve the health of our community,” said Joe Kruse, chief administrative officer of operations at Mayo Clinic Health System - Franciscan Healthcare. “This just feels right for us to be involved in this way.”

The new greenhouse facility is part of Western’s $79.8 million Vision 2020 referendum package, which is up for a vote this November.

Rasch anticipates public support of the referendum, which would create an estimated $112 million in economic activity, create more than 900 jobs and generate $3.4 million in tax revenue by the time the project is completed by 2016, according to Western.

“We could start construction on this project in spring,” said Rasch. “Within a year, it would be a reality.”

The project will continue even if the referendum fails. But Rasch said the most exciting part is the opportunity for the partners to participate in Western’s new Sustainability Institute.

“It’s a new initiative launching to promote community awareness through seminars, courses, and certificates related to various aspects in sustainability,” he said. “It brings value to our region. These partners are behind that.”

Copyright 2015 La Crosse Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(9) Comments

  1. pheasant
    Report Abuse
    pheasant - October 30, 2012 10:36 pm
    ANd it is a BIG bag Lee. At least $130 million and counting. They have even borrowed from the borrowed money. You cannot even find out the debt service? Gee, I wonder why they want to stifle voices of guyz like me at Council.


    BTW, Kader is in the race of Political life. Kader....the one who she and her friends got her a $1200 raise last year at Council. Bet you didn't know that either?
  2. pheasant
    Report Abuse
    pheasant - October 30, 2012 10:33 pm
    Like the house across the street, 'Coulee Cap'? Sold to a Banker??????
  3. pheasant
    Report Abuse
    pheasant - October 30, 2012 9:38 pm
    Do you really think it is coincidence that the City would be behind this. Do you really think that private money would be invested? Like the 'Hit Man' Addis' Theater. His building will be ultimately so full of taxpayer dollars that it will bulge at the seams. LOL!!!!!
  4. David Lee
    Report Abuse
    David Lee - October 30, 2012 4:42 pm
    You don't know the history of this town very well do you. The taxpayers will fund it all thru tifs, and the taxpayers will end up holding the bag, as always.
  5. Check the facts
    Report Abuse
    Check the facts - October 30, 2012 2:57 pm
    David Lee,

    You claim that this project moves land off of the tax rolls.

    Maybe I missed something, but as I read the article this project actually puts more land on the tax roles by building five homes to be sold for private ownership.
  6. David Lee
    Report Abuse
    David Lee - October 30, 2012 2:36 pm
    More taxable land off the roles and you can guarantee they want TIF money. When the heck is this city going to learn. Probably never. Sure will be nice when I can retire somewhere else and get out of this stupid tax hellhole. For that matter I'd even be happy to have a council person who gave a flip about the citizens, but unfortunately I have good ol bobby sequens who never met a taxfree project he didn't love
  7. Serious51
    Report Abuse
    Serious51 - October 30, 2012 12:38 pm
    While all the numbers haven't been released, the vision looks beautiful. Sure the devil is in the details, but thanks local leaders for starting the process.
  8. pheasant
    Report Abuse
    pheasant - October 30, 2012 10:51 am
    Need legal work? Assign it to Legal-

    Need Surveying? Assign it to Park/Rec?????

    Need Inspection and Engineering? Assign those cost to those Departments.


    And of course Planning works for free, LOL!


    They have no idea what anything costs.....period!!!!!
  9. pheasant
    Report Abuse
    pheasant - October 30, 2012 10:49 am
    Here is the question- How much is this going to cost us? My Goodness we have a bunch of 60's hippies running this City? With no idea of cost, cost effectiveness, and numbers? It's like frickin horseshoes for this bunch!
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