You don’t have to look far in La Crosse to see excellent examples of why it’s important to invest in older buildings.
There’s the old North Side school that currently serves as a series of residences.
There’s the old South Side sausage factory that serves the same purpose.
There’s the old department store that’s everything from, well, a new department store to a series of offices.
And there’s the old candy factory turned furniture store that is now a boutique hotel.
What do these projects have in common?
The redevelopment of those buildings — and others in our community — has qualified for historic tax credits.
Those tax credits have made redevelopment both more affordable and, in some cases, feasible.
As part of the cost-cutting budget process, the state of Wisconsin has capped the amount it will pay per project under the program.
The Legislature passed a bill during this budget cycle to cap tax-credit allocations at $5 million per project. Thanks to the governor’s veto pen, that cap was lowered to $500,000.
Gov. Scott Walker argued that lowering the cap would focus redevelopment on job creation.
But some Republican legislators are having second thoughts — and we find that very encouraging.
There’s a move being considered among legislators to push for raising the cap from $500,000 to $3.5 million — and it’s something we think is important for continuing the trend of economic development.
Downtown La Crosse is vibrant and historic — and, yes, you can be both.
But you can only be vibrant if older buildings are repurposed and redeveloped to make way for new economies and new needs.
Our downtown has benefitted from hundreds of millions of dollars in development in years — and some of that has been for redeveloping older buildings for newer uses.
There’s no bigger drag on economic development than being surrounded by hulking homes for pigeons.
Instead, investors and developers in La Crosse — and throughout the state — have found creative ways of bringing older buildings back to life.
Without question, it requires a great of investment and risk.
But with the help of historic tax credits funding at an adequate level, we see all sorts of examples around La Crosse that show that the credits are worth the investment.
We believe the state should set higher limits to continue making such investments wise ones for our future.