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Ground breaks on massive new $23 million housing development on La Crosse's North Side

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Ground breaks on massive new $23 million housing development on La Crosse's North Side

Crews begin work on the first phase of the 5th Ward Residences development, which will construct 144 apartments, condos and an activity center on the northern four acres of the former Trane Plant 6 site.

Since a group of developers first bought a former Trane plant site on La Crosse’s North Side in 2013, ideas for its future have taken many forms. But now nearly a decade later, crews have officially broken ground on a new housing development, one of the first visions for the space.

The first phase of the $23 million 5th Ward Residences will add two apartment buildings with 144 total units, 14 owner-occupied townhomes, a community center, walking trail and more on the north end of the site located at George and St. Andrews streets.

It is expected to take between 18-24 months to complete, and residents can move in next fall — after which there will still be about six acres left to develop on the lot. Officials were previously looking at the feasibility of a senior living and memory care facility to help fill that space, though plans have not been solidified.

Ground breaks on massive new $23 million housing development on La Crosse's North Side

A rendering of the site plan for phase one of the 5th Ward Residences development, which officially broke ground on Thursday, Nov. 18. The development will include 144 apartment units, 14 owner-occupied townhomes and activity space.

A development group of Three Sixty Real Estate and Borton Construction, known as Stitzo Development, LLC, with the help of Mastercraft Homes, Inc., are spearheading the project.

Stitzo first purchased the property in 2013, and since then different proposals and projects have flooded in for the former industrial site, from retail and grocery stores to the STAR Center, an all-abilities workout and therapy facility that received a rezoning approval for the site but never came to fruition.

Mitch Reynolds

Mitch Reynolds, La Crosse mayor

“This has been a long time coming,” said Paul Borsheim, president of Borton. “We’ve had a lot of opportunities over the years that we’ve looked at trying to make this site a go.”

Borsheim said they’ve had 20-30 different businesses look at the site and officials have brought several projects down the road, but none have made it to the finish line as Borsheim emphasized how rare it is to have a development site of this size pop up in La Crosse.

“You don’t have many opportunities where you have 10 acres and a clean slate to say: What if?” he said.

Ground breaks on massive new $23 million housing development on La Crosse's North Side

Marvin Wanders of Three Sixty Real Estate, left, Mark Etrheim of Mastercraft Homes, Inc., center, and Paul Borsheim of Borton Construction, right, ceremoniously dig their shovels in to mark the groundbreaking of the 5th Ward Residences development on the North Side.

Despite several years and dozens of ideas, the first try may have been the right one all along as the site will now be developed into one of its original visions by prioritizing housing and community with the project.

“It’s been a challenging site,” Borsheim said. “Our mission here we continue to work on was to create a unique community and really to create a sense of place.”

Housing is exactly the right development the city needs, too, La Crosse Mayor Mitch Reynolds said.

“This thing has been in the planning process for years and years and years. Wasn’t this going to be a hockey rink at some point?” he said, alluding to the many different suggestions of the past. “I think that I would much prefer there to be housing here.”

Barb Janssen

Like he has emphasized throughout his first seven months in office, Reynolds said, “I think I’ve made it very clear that the thing that I want most in our community is to have more housing. We need more housing. This is exactly, exactly what we need in our community in the city of La Crosse.”

It’s not only the right development for the city as a whole, but also for the North Side, where housing in recent years has often been riddled with flooding and high water, and La Crosse Common Council president Barb Janssen said it will work to help bring the North and South Sides together.

Ground breaks on massive new $23 million housing development on La Crosse's North Side

Guests examine the rendering of the 5th Ward Residences housing development at a groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday, Nov. 18. The first phase of the project will take up to two years to complete and will include housing and community space.

“I’m ecstatic,” Janssen said. “I’ve driven by this site for years and to be able to add housing — because that’s the number one thing we deal with seems like on a daily basis, a lack of quality, reasonably priced housing. And the North Side, we’re out of the floodplain. It couldn’t get any better I think.”

Borsheim said he has a “passion for redeveloping on the North Side.”

The site, commonly known as the Trane Plant 6 site, was first sold to the city and partners in 1997. The building was officially demolished in 2010 and environmental cleanup was done, including filling and raising the site out of the floodplain. It’s since sat vacant as a brownfield site.

Ground breaks on massive new housing development on La Crosse's North Side

A rendering of a residential-focused redevelopment at the former Trane Plant 6 site, which has sat vacant for nearly a decade. Ground broke on the property Thursday, Nov. 18 to begin the project, which is being led by Three Sixty Real Estate Solutions and Stizo Development, LLC.

“I think this is a great example of pulling property up out of the floodplain, creating housing and providing more options,” Janssen said.

In addition to the housing at 5th Ward Residences, which was previously being dubbed the “Red Cloud Development,” the project includes an activity center with a fitness site, an outdoor basketball court, outdoor courtyards fit with fire pits and grills, and a walking trail that will eventually connect with nearby Red Cloud Park. There will also be a leasable business and office space to help accommodate more people working from home.

An extension of nearby Hager Street has also been included in the development plans, connecting St. Cloud and St. Andrew Streets.

Apartments will include a mix of studios, and 1-2 bedroom units, and rent was originally estimated to range between $799-$1,250 a month with the townhomes starting at $229,000.

Ground breaks on massive new $23 million housing development on La Crosse's North Side

Equipment seen on the northern end of the Trane Plant 6 site, where ground officially broke on Thursday, Nov. 18 on a new housing development. The project will produce hundreds of local construction jobs, officials said.

“Part of what we wanted to do was really to create some variety of types of housing,” Borsheim said.

There will be a mix of private and ground-level parking and garages for residents.

The group will use some TIF aid from Tax Incremental District 16 for the development, which is a mechanism that funnels property taxes into specific projects. Developers originally requested $3.75 million with an expected payback date through 2036.

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