When it comes to building and rebuilding a city like La Crosse, there’s development and there’s redevelopment.
There are rare opportunities when a large piece of property opens for development, such as Riverside North near the confluence of the La Crosse, Black and Mississippi rivers.
The city has invested a lot of time and money to clean up the former industrial property near downtown, and the opportunity to develop such a large, beautiful piece of land is exciting. We’re eager to see what the recently selected master developer proposes.
Clearly, a 65-acre site (about two thirds will be developed) isn’t something you often get to develop in a city like La Crosse — a city with lots of boundaries and dynamic features, from rivers to bluffs to municipal borders and a splendid urban marsh.
Because those opportunities are rare, redeveloping the city — lot by lot — is critical to our tax base, our livability and our future.
All you have to do is think of the empty cement slab that used to sit at 721 Charles St. — what was left from the run-down house that sat there before the city raised it out of the floodplain.
Today, there’s a new foundation and a lot of activity on that lot, thanks to a fascinating mix of high school students who need boost, a city that’s interested in rebuilding neighborhoods, a college that’s interested in providing educational opportunities and federal funding.
It’s all coming together as a single-family home on Charles Street — a great improvement with lasting dividends.
And some 17-year-old students are helping make it happen as part of the Youth Build program at Western Technical College — a program designed to give a hand and provide skills to students who could use the help while helping others.
The program provides workforce structure and real skills to students.
The city has played a key role by purchasing rundown homes and preparing the lots for something new.
In addition to the Youth Build program, Western has teamed up with the city on the Wood Tech program, which builds two houses a year with the help of adult students.
Lot by lot, these programs help revitalize housing stock and rebuild neighborhoods.
Unless you drive by, you may not see the work occurring on a single lot — taking an eyesore of a house or an overgrown plot and turning it into an affordable home that improves our community in many ways.
These programs certainly aren’t a quick fix. They take time and tending.
But these partnerships are critical for our redevelopment of housing stock and neighborhood strength.
They also speak volumes about what our city values and how we work together to build our future.