A Minneapolis developer is asking the city of La Crosse for a $300,000 community development block grant to buy the Rivoli Building and convert the upper floors into affordable housing.
The upper floors of the historic Rivoli Theatre building could become affordable housing sometime next year, according to an application reviewed Tuesday by a city committee.
A Minneapolis-based developer is seeking a $300,000 community development block grant loan from the La Crosse Community Development Committee to convert the upper floors of the building, which sits at 114 Fourth St. N. in downtown La Crosse, into apartments called the Rivoli Theatre Lofts.
Roers Companies, which was founded in 2012, is in the preliminary stages of the project, gathering funding that will allow it to upgrade the first floor, which houses the theater and restaurant, retaining the retail space. The upper floors, which are currently the home to mostly vacant office space, will house nine studio and 24 one-bedroom apartments, according to preliminary plans.
“We’re not in the theater business, so the current owner is going to continue on and run the Rivoli Theatre,” vice president of development Paul Keenan said. “The Rivoli Theatre is not going away.”
The housing project will target those with household incomes below the La Crosse area median income. According to Roers, the project is unique in that it will use “income averaging,” which allows the project to lease apartments to residents from 30 to 80 percent of the median income as long as the average rent is less than 60 percent of the median. That will allow Roers to provide housing to a greater range of low-income residents.
The company also plans to set aside seven units for residents needing services or who are homeless, working with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to establish a procedure to fill those units.
Should the project move forward, Roers stated it will reach out to the La Crosse Collaborative to End Homeless, La Crosse County Human Services and Veterans Service Office to explore potential partnerships.
Roers plans to utilize historic and low-income tax credits to assist in financing the project, which will cost an estimated $7.9 million.
The location in the heart of downtown attracted Roers to the project, Keenan said.
“That’s where a lot of people are moving back to right now. There’s kind of a reurbanization of communities,” Keenan said.
It is also already designated as a historic building, which puts it in a good place to receive state and federal tax credits.
“If we can get the affordable housing piece put together, it works,” Keenan said.
Roers Companies has constructed several apartment complexes across the Midwest, from Des Moines, Iowa, to Tioga, N.D. and Rochester, Minn., which provide senior, student, market-rate and mixed-use housing.
Common Bond Communities has been retained to serve as the property manager for the project; however, the sale isn’t finalized.
“Best-case scenario, we’re opening in 18 months,” Keenan said.
Roers is competing with several other projects for the community development block grant funds. The city committee can award up to about $587,000 in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funds through the grant next week. It is evaluating the applications for compatibility with the goals listed in its five-year comprehensive plan, strength of other financing sources and other qualifications.
It had $543,210 in requests for funding; however, the city is also able to allocate funds to programs that don’t request loans, as long as they fit into criteria listed in the action plan it submits to HUD each year.
The city is also able to award up to $185,000 in grants to public service projects. It received 17 applications for 2019 funding.
The exact amount of HUD funds is not yet available.
Old La Crosse Post Office
A photo taken by the late Gordon Feinberg (1915-1990) of La Crosse looks east from the 300 block of State Street in 1946, showing the old La Crosse Post Office on the northeast corner of Fourth and State streets. Completed in 1890, with a large addition erected in 1933, this one-time local landmark with its iconic tower was razed in July 1977.
Old La Crosse County Courthouse
A closeup view of the imposing old La Crosse County Courthouse, which was located on what is now Belle Square. This onetime landmark, with its signature bell tower and clock dome, was completed in 1904 and razed in 1965.
Mary E. Sawyer Auditorium
The Mary E. Sawyer Auditorium, pictured here in a La Crosse Tribune photo, was a bequest to the people of La Crosse by the widow of prosperous lumberman William E. Sawyer in 1941. Before that, the Stoddard Hotel was as a close a venue as La Crosse had to host conferences and large events. After much debate about the location and cost of such an endeavor, the community building was dedicated Sept. 29, 1955, as part of a three-day celebration. At the time of the official dedication, however, the auditorium had already taken in income of $9,000. "Holiday on Ice" was a popular show for many years and several big name celebrities, including Elvis Presley, performed at the "Mary E." Politicians including John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan visited. The building stood on Vine Street, between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Street, and was little used after the completion of the La Crosse Center in October 1980. The auditorium was razed in 1988 to make way for the La Crosse County Health and Human Services Building, which included the juvenile detention center.
An early 1900s view of Germania Hall, which stood at the northwest corner of Market Street and Fifth Avenue South. Erected in 1892, this social center for La Crosse’s German population included parlors, a kitchen, dining rooms, reading rooms, a bar room, a bowling alley, a gymnasium, a ballroom and a large theater with a stage. In Sept. 1918, the name of Germania Hall was changed to Pioneer Hall because of strong anti-German sentiment during World War I. As the ranks of German social groups dwindled during the 1930s, this building was sold in August 1937 to a CIO union group, and it became a local labor center known as Pioneer Labor Hall. Portions of the hall fell into disrepair during the late 1950s, and early 1960s, leading to the razing of the onetime landmark in February 1966. The former site of the hall is now occupied by Fire Station No. 1.
In February 1969, Allis Chalmers announced it would shutter its plant in La Crosse. There were 375 employees working at the tractor manufacturer at the time of the closure. The buildings, located in the 500 block of North Third Street, were razed in late 1970 and early 1971. Today this site, just north of the La Crosse Tribune building, is a parking lot.
The original La Crosse Public Library
Dedicated Nov. 20, 1888, the original La Crosse Public Library building on the southeast corner of Main and Eighth streets is shown here shortly after its completion. Its founder, former Wisconsin governor Cadwallader C. Washburn, died in Eureka Springs, Ark., in May 1882. In his will he bequeathed $50,000 to the city of La Crosse for the erection of a public library. The design of Minneapolis architect C. C. Yost was chosen for the building. Annie E. Hanscome, former librarian of the private Young Men’s Library Association, was officially hired as the first librarian. Today’s main building remains on the same site of the original structure at 800 Main St. Anyone with more information about this photo or wishing to donate photos of the Coulee Region may call the La Crosse Public Library Archives at 608-789-7136.
Krause’s Kabin Kourt
This undated postcard view from the 1940s shows Krause’s Kabin Kourt (left) and a combination grocery store and gas station located on the northeast corner of Losey Boulevard and State Road. At one time the Kabin Kourt, owned and operated by Charles and Emma Krause from circa 1938 to 1961, consisted of 18 cabins, including “seven deluxe cabins having hot and cold running water, showers, toilets and outlets for shavers.” A Kmart store was built on the site in 1965. The discount store closed its doors in September 2017.
Wilson's Boarding House
A circa 1910 view of Wilson’s Boarding House, which was located at the northwest corner of Sixth and Cass streets. In business there from 1889 to 1918 and first operated by Mrs. Richard (Ellen) Wilson, the Wilson House was a popular lodging place for traveling vaudeville actors and actresses performing in La Crosse. This old landmark was razed in 1934 and its former site is now occupied by a two-story brick building that contains offices for The Center: 7 Rivers LGBTQ Connection plus apartments on the second floor.
La Crosse Soda Water Factory and Berlin Weiss Beer Brewery
This circa 1894 scene of a small-scale bottling operation at the La Crosse Soda Water Factory and Berlin Weiss Beer Brewery includes two young children who appear to be helping with the process. The 1890s business was located at 517 S. Third St. and was owned by George Warninger and August Houthmaker. In addition to soda water and Weiss beer, the firm produced ginger ale, mineral water and cider, according to old city directory files. This bottling plant is long gone and its former site is now occupied by Pischke Motors Nissan.
F. W. Woolworth Co. 5 and 10-Cent Store
Marked by streetcar tracks and overhead streetcar wires, this circa 1916 photo shows the F.W. Woolworth Co. 5 and 10-Cent Store at 328-330 Main St. This store, part of a once-popular national retail chain, occupied this location from 1916 to 1936, according to Tribune files. This four-story brick building, then known as the Linker Building, was destroyed by fire in 1961, and today the site is occupied by Howes Diamond Jewelers at 324 Main St.
The No. 2 Fire Station
This photo from July 10, 1896, shows La Crosse firemen posing with a horse-drawn fire rig outside the old No. 2 Fire Station, which was located at 510 St. Cloud St. This station was erected in 1884 and served until January 1957, when a new No. 2 Station was completed on Monitor Street. After its fire service days ended, this building was used by the city for storage, including housing the Myrick Zoo monkeys during winter months. This old fire station was razed 50 years ago during the summer of 1966, and its former site is now occupied by Fibre-Fab in a one-story concrete block building.
The Penguin Drive-In
A circa 1966 view of the Penguin Drive-In, 3317 Mormon Coulee Road, at that time next to a Texaco gas station. The Penguin, which was first operated by Orville Maxwell, was a popular spot for ice cream treats and was in business from 1966 to 1973, according to city directory files. The old Penguin building is long gone and its former site is now occupied by Engelson & Associates, LTD., an accounting and tax consultant firm.
William Welch grocery store
A 1912 view of the William Welch grocery store, which was located at 1101 Liberty St., then known as Berlin Street. Posing in front of the store are, from left, James Welch, William Welch, Orabell Sullivan and Laura Welch, according to information supplied with the photo. At that time most grocery stores in La Crosse were small neighborhood affairs, such as the Welch store, with 77 groceries listed in the 1913 La Crosse City Directory. William Welch, who died in 1925 at 47, operated this store from 1912 to 1921, according to Tribune files. This frame store building was razed in circa 1967, and its former site is now occupied by a parking lot.
Town House Motel
This postcard view, from a card mailed 55 years ago, in October 1959, shows the old Town House Motel, which was located at 122 N. Seventh St., next to Burns Park. The Town House operated from 1959 to 1973 and was last managed by Esther Capellen, according to La Crosse City Directory files. This building was last occupied by Family Resources, now known as The Parenting Place, before being razed in 2005 to make way for an addition to the nearby Park Bank at 700 State St., according to Tribune files.
Second Ward School
This circa 1881 photo, taken from a stereoview by the 19th century photographic firm of Edward Elmer and Charles Tenney of Winona, Minn., shows the old Second Ward School which was located on the southwest corner of Fourth and King streets. This primary school, which also housed La Crosse’s first high school classes, was completed in 1870 and operated until 1907 before being razed in 1913, according to Tribune files. The former site of this school is now occupied by a vehicle parking area for Pischke Motors of La Crosse.
Evans Cartage warehouse
This Tribune photo shows La Crosse firemen hosing down the smoldering remains of the Evans Cartage warehouse, which was destroyed by fire on July 25, 1944. The warehouse was located at 1906 West Ave. S. and was packed to capacity with household goods and furniture — all of which were consumed by the fire. Smoke from the fire could be seen from all parts of the city and attracted thousands of spectators to the scene, according to Tribune files. The former site of the warehouse is now occupied by a parking lot for the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. of La Crosse.
Norby grocery store and gas station
This photo, believed to have been taken in March 1932, shows Albert Norby, center, and his son Theodore Norby, at right, standing in front of their grocery store-gas station, which was located at 1802-1804 Jackson St. The Norbys operated an early version of today’s Kwik Trip stores, as they sold groceries, meat, ice cream, candy, newspapers and gasoline from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, according to Tribune files. Albert Norby died in 1944, after which Theodore Norby operated the Norby Confectionery store at 1802 Jackson St. until 1962. This building was razed in 1962, and the former site of the Norby store is now occupied by a parking lot for the Jackson Plaza Shopping Center.
Johnnies Bar & Grill
La Crosse firefighters battle a blaze that destroyed Johnnie’s Bar & Restaurant 20 years ago during the early morning hours of Feb. 26, 1994. Johnnie’s, which dated to 1947 and was located at 2620 South Ave., was a popular restaurant, widely known for its Friday night fish fry. The former site of Johnnie’s is now occupied by a parking area for Autotude at 2612 South Ave.
Pomeroy Opera House
THE WAY IT WAS: La Crosse’s Pomeroy Opera House, which was located on the southwest corner of Fourth and Main streets, from a stereo view taken in the early 1870s by La Crosse photographer Charles Bayley. This multi-use building was completed in early 1869 for Marcus “Brick” Pomeroy, the nationally known and controversial publisher and editor of the La Crosse Democrat newspaper during the 1860s. The formal opening of this opera house, located on the top floor of the building, was held 145 years ago, on Feb. 13, 1869, with an exhibition of what were then the first bicycles to appear in La Crosse. Later known as the McMillan Opera House, this building was destroyed by fire on Dec. 3, 1897, according to old La Crosse newspaper files. The former site of this opera house is now occupied by a parking area, Howes Diamond Jewelers and the Great Wall Chinese Restaurant. Anyone with more information about this photo or wishing to donate other photos of the Coulee Region may contact the La Crosse Public Library Archives at 608-789-7136.
Blue Tiger Lounge
A fire, later determined to be arson, damaged the Blue Tiger Lounge in October 1984. Much of the building, located at 105 S. Third St., was rebuilt in 2000 and is home to That Foreign Place.
North Star Drive-In
A patron watches a film at the North Star Drive-In in this 1983 photo. The site, which had room for 525 cars, was built in the town of Medary in 1953. The outdoor theater closed in the late 1980s. Today those 14 acres, located across Hwy. 16 from Valley View Mall, are home to many retailers located along Theater Road.
South Avenue Cafeteria
Dorothy Sheehan serves a customer during the last week of business at South Avenue Cafeteria in 1983. The building was demolished shortly after the restaurant closed. Gundersen Health System's Founders Building occupies the spot today.
Erected in 1904 on the southeast corner of Fourth and State streets, the Stoddard Hotel was named in honor of Thomas B. Stoddard, the city's first mayor. For many years the Stoddard was La Crosse's main hotel. It was razed in 1982 after experiencing financial problems in the late 1970s. Notable people who stayed at the Stoddard Hotel included John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Elvis Presley, Frank Lloyd Wright, Lawrence Welk, Ann Landers, Joe Louis, Gloria Swanson and Tallulah Bankhead. Today the former site of the hotel is occupied by a parking lot.
Millie and Don Roesler stand in front of the Party House restaurant in 1981 shortly before it closed. The supper club, which was located in the town of Shelby near the junction of Hwy. 14/61 and Hwy. 35, was the casualty of a road expansion project.
Workers demolish a 100-year-old building on the corner of Third and Main streets in 1981. The building was home to the nightclub Valentino's, but the city decided the crumbling structure was unsafe and ordered it torn down. Today, the corner lot provides parking for Verve credit union's offices next door.
Henry and Leone Wright stand in front of their restaurant, The Chop House, days before it closed in April 1980. The eatery, located at 122 N. Third St., was best known for its breakfasts. That original plan was to tear down the building to make way for an expansion of First Bank-La Crosse, but the lender instead built a 10-story office tower at Second and Main streets. The former Chop House building is home to Digger's Sting today.
A fire destroyed Zorba's Greek restaurant in 1979. In 1981, owner Demetrios "Jimmy" Mitropoulos was sentenced to eight years in prison on an arson charge. Emman "Mike" Minos testified that Mitropoulos paid him $2,000 to set fire to the restaurant at 304 Main St. The lot, that today is adjacent to Grounded Specialty Coffee, remains vacant.
Nutbush City Limits
Jon Schuster stands in front of his new restaurant, Nutbush City Limits, along Hwy. 16 northeast of La Crosse in this 1979 photo. The location was previously home to Lucky's Tavern. The expansion of Hwy. 16 to four lanes forced Nutbush to relocate to its current home at 3264 George St. in 1985.
Yum Yum Tree
The Yum Yum Tree, located at 4816 Mormon Coulee Road, was a nightclub on the city's far South Side that featured women — often topless — as dancers. This photo, taken in 1977, announces an upcoming show by Strawberry, Rachel, Fox, Zanadu and Amy. Also, according to the Tribune's files, Miss Baby Dumpling, billed as "425 pounds of fun," performed there in 1975. The business closed its doors in 1982. The structure was built as a buggy barn by William F. Gautsch.
In 1977, Menards opened its store on Lang Drive in La Crosse. The home improvement store was at the south end of a new shopping center, Menard Plaza, that also featured a Quillin's supermarket. The Menards closed in January 2005, and the entire shopping center was demolished to make way for a larger Menards store, which would occupy the entire site when it opened in March 2006. The Eau Claire-based retailer also operates a store along Hwy. 53 in Onalaska that opened in 1996.
1976: Ben Franklin
A natural gas explosion destroyed the Ben Franklin store at 1201 Caledonia St. in December 1976. The store's owners, Ralph and Thelma Osborne, later reopened the store at the same location. Today, Essential Health Clinic is located on that site.
Mr. D's Donuts
Darrell and Rosie Kluever, owners of Mr. D's Donuts, show off their new location shortly after the restaurant moved to 1146 State St. in 1976. The Kluevers' first Mr. D's restaurant, opened in 1969, was located next door. Art Lotz took over as owner in 1979, and the restaurant closed in 2006 to make room for a widening of West Avenue.
When the Linker Building was razed in 1962 as a result of a fire, a large hole remained on the site at the southwest corner of Fourth and Main streets. It was an eyesore, and began to be referred to by residents as the hole, according to research by the archives department of the La Crosse Public Library. The land stood vacant until 1966, when efforts by local businesses, organizations and individuals built a sunken garden. An agreement was made with Ben Marcus, the landowner, whereby the chamber would coordinate development of the park, but Marcus would retain full rights and if he decided to build or sell the property, the city would remove the park. Part of the agreement was that filling the hole was not permitted, so the sunken garden was planned. Debris was cleared by Boy Scouts and other volunteers, and a fountain was installed. A name-the-hole contest was held, and the winner was Phil Dyer with his entry Man-Lay Garden. The name was symbolic of the cooperation of management and labor in this project. A commemorative plaque, which included before and after pictures of the site, was placed in the garden in July 1967 in honor of the firms and individuals that donated materials and labor. In 1974, Marcus sold the land for $75,000, and one year later it was announced that a McDonalds restaurant would be built. It was built so the garden could be partially retained. A 32-foot bridge was built from the sidewalk on Fourth Street over the garden to the walkway. The fast-food restaurant closed its location in 1995. In 1998, the property was remodeled for a Brueggers Bagels, and the Man-Lay garden east of the building was filled in to create six parking spaces by fall 1999. The bagel shop closed in 2004. Today the site is home to Howe's Jewelers.
Embers Restaurant, a Minnesota-based chain, opened at 2620 Rose St. in December, 1973. The eatery closed in April 2004 to make room for a Walgreens, which opened at the site in November 2004.
The Varsity Club is shown here in 1973 shortly after it moved into its new location at 1932 Ward Ave. Today, that location is occupied by the Moose Lodge.
1972: King Cinema
People fill the lobby for the opening of King Cinema in 1972. The movie theater, located at 222 S. Seventh St., showed "The Biscuit Eater" on both of its screens on its first night. The facility, which later added a third screen, showed its final film, "Wimbledon," before closing in 2004. Today, the site is home to a two-story building that houses Social Security offices.
The Sandy's Drive-In, at the southeast corner of Rose and Clinton streets, is shown here shortly after an addition was completed in 1972. The fast food franchise was at the location from 1962 until about 1975. Today, the site is home to River Bank.
Bartl Brewery, located near the corner of La Crosse Street and Lang Drive, was torn down in October 1971 to make room for a gas station. The brewery was founded in 1904 by Austrian native Frank Bartl and his sons, Joseph and Frank.
The Ivy Inn, which was located at 232 N. Sixth St., is shown here in 1971. After the motel closed, the building served as a residence hall for Western Technical College for 12 years before being demolished in 2013 to make way for the school's Horticulture Education Center.
This photo shows the young juniors department days before the new Montgomery Wards department store opened in downtown La Crosse. The retailer occupied the entire block bound by Third and Fourth streets and Vine and State streets, which had been the site of the La Crosse County Courthouse. Wards closed in 1986, and the building was demolished. The site was a county-owned parking lot until 2014, when La Crosse developer Don Weber purchased the property to build a $68 million complex of offices, stores and apartments.
1965: Dog House Restaurant
The Dog House Restaurant opened in September 1965. On hand for the opening were, from left, local franchise owner William Jefferson company President Ross Marino. The eatery, located at the corner of Losey Boulevard and State Road, was open 24 hours a day. Hobbit Travel now occupies the corner.
The Swiss Chateau, a cheese, wine and specialty food shop, opened at corner of Third and Ferry streets in 1964. It later added a restaurant called Cheddar and Ale. Today, that site is a sales lot for Toyota of La Crosse.
Henry's Drive-In — which featured a menu of hamburgers, french fries and milkshakes — opened in 1962 at the corner of Seventh and King streets. The building was torn down in 1981 to make way for Godfather's Pizza. That site is home to Pizza Doctors today.
A Holiday Inn opened in 1962 along Park Plaza Drive, just west of the Cass Street bridge on Barron Island. The complex was renamed Yacht Club Resorts in 1997, and it was divided into three separate lodging operations — a Ramada hotel, Howard Johnson Express Inn and Villager Lodge. All three were closed by 1999, and the buildings were eventually torn down. After many failed attempts to develop the site, construction has begun on Pettibone Pointe, a condominium development by Gerrard-Hoeschler.
A circa 1900 view of the Hotel Law, which was on the northwest corner of Second and Pearl streets. The Hotel Law occupied this building from 1890 to 1913, and at the time of this photo was considered one of the top hotels in the city. In 1928, the Gannott Hotel opened in this building and operated there until 1968, according to Tribune files. This longtime hotel structure was razed in 1970 as part of the Harborview Plaza Project, and its former site is now occupied by a parking area for the Radisson Hotel.
Western Spinning Mills
This photo, donated by Patti (Stickler) Deuster, shows the Western Spinning Mills in Onalaska during the early 1920s. Located at the southwest corner of Second Avenue and Main Street, this concrete and tile building was erected in 1917 to replace a frame building destroyed by fire.
The Western Spinning Mills began business in 1900 and was later known as the Wisconsin Spinning Mills and then the Mitchell Spinning Mills before closing in 1936.
At one time this plant employed up to 60 workers and produced up to 2,000 pounds of yarn daily for use in the manufacture of sweaters, socks and athletic knit goods.
This building, which later became a windowless stucco affair, was razed a couple years ago as part of the Great River Landing project.
Anyone with more information about this photo or wishing to donate photos of the Coulee Region may contact the La Crosse Public Library Archives at 608-789-7136.
Max’s Auto Wrecking Co.
This photo shows a 1961 view of the annex of Max’s Auto Wrecking Co., started by Max Bemel in 1934.
This auto scrap business was located in the former Wisconsin Pearl Button Works building at 726 N. Third St., just south of the La Crosse River. In 1949 Bemel sold his interest to Harry B. Locketz, who maintained the name, and Manly Abrams became the vice president.
As early as the 1960s, however, many saw the salvage yard as an eyesore. Rumors started about the city potentially taking over the “blighted area” as part of a renewal effort in 1964. However, it wasn’t until 1982 when the building finally came down.
On the site now at 750 N. Third St. is an office building owned by Luisco LLC, which houses a law firm, a title company and an architectural and engineering firm. River Architects at 740 N. Seventh St. was also built on the east part of the former Maxco property.
Anyone with more information about this photo or wishing to donate photos of the Coulee Region may call the La Crosse Public Library Archives at 608-789-7136.
Old La Crescent train depot
This undated snapshot from the early 1900s shows the old Milwaukee Railroad Depot at La Crescent, Minn.
Located near the east end of North First Street, this frame structure was built in 1888, according to “Dreams, Disasters and Demise: The Milwaukee Road in Minnesota” by John Luecke (1988). This one-time landmark was destroyed by fire 80 years ago on Dec. 7, 1938, with the village records from 1926 to 1938 also going up in smoke.
This depot was replaced by a smaller, one-story depot which, following its closure, was moved to the ridge above La Crescent to house public events.
Anyone with more information about this photo or wishing to donate photos of the Coulee Region may contact the La Crosse Public Library Archives at 608-789-7136.
Jourdan Vian can be reached at
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