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Rivoli Building

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.

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“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.


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Jourdan Vian can be reached at jvian@lacrossetribune.com or follow her on Twitter at @Jourdan_LCT.

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City government reporter

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.

(5) comments

lutefisk

Bad idea

canman

Where will the off street parking be located, there already is limited parking down town to sustain the businesses.

DMoney

Great in theory. What do the taxpayers get in exchange for the money to make this housing affordable? Are residents subjected to random drug testing or work hours requirements? If that's too harsh and intrusive, can their general contribution to society be measured quarterly/annually with results determining their eligibility? To get something, gotta give something. No such thing as a free lunch.

RNeibuhr

Well first of all, it's a loan from the city. So they are lending, not giving. Also, the people living there (execpt a few rooms for transitional housing) would paying to live there. Secondly, taxpayers benefit in many ways from affordable housing. The taxpayers get people with a more stable life who can better care for their children, are less likely to end up in jail or on the street, and can potentially afford to live near their job. There are decades of research about how affordable housing is a net cost savings. Not to mention that all the downtown businesses benefit from additional people living downtown vs. empty office space. They also benefit from the preservation of a historic building. Just because you're ignorant of the utility of projects like these, doesn't mean they aren't useful.

capedcrusader

Amen!

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