Stipulation is that lot can only stay five years
Gundersen Health System can have its parking lot.
But just for the next five years.
Thursday, the La Crosse city council has agreed to allow a demolition permit for Gundersen to tear down a block of houses to put up a parking lot.
Gundersen says it needs the parking to make up for the spaces getting swallowed up by a new hotel the system is building on its campus.
The city council has agreed to allow the project to move forward as long as the block reverts to something besides a parking lot in five years.
A Gundersen spokesperson says that five-year time limit shouldn’t be a problem.
Not all the councils was in agreement on the decision, and people from the area came to the meeting to speak out against the decision.
“There have been about four-and-a-half square blocks of housing taken out, since the 1980s,” Obie King said. “Now, if a tornado had struck and suddenly flattened four-and-a-half blocks of housing, we would have thought that would have been a horrible disaster.
“House by house and block by block over the years, those 4.5 square blocks have disappeared. And now Gundersen is proposing to make that 5.5 square blocks.
Critics of the Gundersen plan say another surface parking lot will only further erode already very low property values in that neighborhood.
Gundersen’s Michael Richards says the project isn’t about the health system simply growing without consideration for its surroundings.
“There’s no other organization that’s invested this much into the neighborhood,” Richards said, “has committed this much time and effort to the neighborhood and has brought this much commerce to this area of the city.”