One of the first things a La Crosse-based development company wants to do with the old Kmart site in town is not call it the old Kmart site.
The new-old U-Haul site doesn’t work, either. And, Three Sixty Real Estate Solutions’ owner Marvin Wanders said calling it the old Hardees site is out of the question.
“Internally, our team — and I really enjoy this process — we like to find historical aspects that have happened in the neighborhood,” Wanders said. “If we can tie into some of those things, we’ll come up with a really good name. And we need to do it sooner rather than later.”
If you have ideas for, not just a name for that nearly eight acres of land on the corner of Losey Boulevard and State Road, but ideas what that land should be used for, an open house to get that input is happening from 5-6:30 p.m. Wednesday … at the old Kmart. Inside it, in fact.
Not having an old Kmart building there would be a good start and is a real possibility.
“Yeah, I think that’s the way we’re going to look at this site,” Wanders said. “That building is a very large building. If we’re going to get density on this site, that’s something that we strongly need to consider — starting with a clean slate and reimagining what can happen on this corner.”
No, it wont — it can’t — be a Costco.
“One issue you’d have right away is the site would be too small,” Wanders said. “They have really tight parameters on what they would do for a site.
“The days of big boxes, we’ve watched dwindle and change. There’s some that are still successful, like Costco, who’s doing very well. However, we think what fits here is a good solid mixed use project with smaller scale boxes that can add community based amenities to it.”
It’s not like Wanders doesn’t have some ideas, though.
His company did the Three Rivers Plaza around Festival Foods on Copeland Avenue. It also did The Hub on Sixth Street downtown, which was the old County Administrative building next to City Hall. And, Three Sixty is also working with the city on rental units for Trane Plant 6 near Pearl Street Brewery and Menards.
Wanders’ idea: brew pub.
“I just think there’s a really unique culture with small scale brew pubs, where it’s very artisan in nature that people like to go and visit. Right?” Wanders said. “So, If you’re making the beer on site and also serving other local beers at it, and then have a good family focused food menu, I think that could be very successful on this corner.”
Wanders said the timeline for the projects to begin could be about a year, despite these things seemingly being around forever in the area, like three old Shopkos, multiple empty stores in the mall, the old Mobil Oil site, which has been renamed the River Pointe District, and the former Naval Reserve site.
“We could see some things start to happen in the fall but most likely the spring (next) year,” he said. “After this initial input meeting, we’re going to take all the information from that, we’re going to start to put together site plans that the neighborhood can react to. That’ll probably take us 30-60 days. We’re looking at 4-6 months of real good solid planning work here.”
Wanders also envisions the area utilizing its unique scenery — but that doesn’t mean the old Hardees.
“There’s some really strong connections,” he said. “You have Bluff View Park in the neighborhood, and Erickson Pool in the neighborhood, and the trail system and the bluffs.
“You could certainly see, if you’re in a residential component here to be able to look up at Miller Bluff, and Cliffwood Bluff, that this could be a very attractive place to live, work and play.”
As for that busy intersection, Wanders sees that as good and bad.
“We’re really going to have to work diligently with the city on those things, and street scaping,” he said. “Things we can do to soften the project in order to have it fit with that busy intersection. We’re pretty confident, through design, we can get that done.”
With a Festival Foods and little strip mall on one side of the street and some other businesses — like Dunkin’ Doughnuts and Verizon — on the other, Wanders doesn’t see this development overtaking or dominating the area.
“We’re going to work diligently to try and complement the existing assets that are already in this neighborhood by adding other businesses that can actually strengthen and make the neighborhood stronger,” he said, adding the site would be “mixed use.” Basically some business and some residential.
Wanders said his company will be working with the owners of the site in a joint venture. Asked to describe Three Sixty Real Estate Solutions, Wanders said, “We plan, develop and manage real estate. Most of our projects are in-fill projects. We will take and work on sites that are old sites — they’ve been through the real estate process once. And then we reimagine, revision those sites and make them into something productive for years going forward.”