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40 years in making, “old Mobil Oil site” in La Crosse, could get approval for 1st building by city council Thursday



FILE - Rendering of potential housing development in La Crosse's River Point District.

Nearly 40 years in the making, La Crosse may have its first building plan for what’s often referred to as the old Mobil Oil site — now called the River Point District.

This first development, which likely gets approval by the city council Thursday night, isn’t some giant, earth-shattering business coming to town, but it’s probably the most important need for La Crosse — housing.

Economist Adam Hoffer, recently on La Crosse Talk PM, has some high expectations for the area just north of Riverside Park.

“I honestly think that River Point is going to change the city forever,” Hoffer, the director of excise tax policy at the Tax Foundation, said. “There’s going to be a lot of new construction. I think it’s going to change the city. I think it’s going to change the feel of downtown.”

La Crosse Talk PM airs weekdays at 5:06 p.m. Listen on the WIZM app, online here, or on 92.3 FM / 1410 AM / 106.7 FM (north of Onalaska). Find all the podcasts here or subscribe to La Crosse Talk PM wherever you get your podcasts.

For as long as La Crosse Mayor Mitch Reynolds has lived here, he’s heard about development on “the old Mobil Oil site.” Now, he’s basically giddy to see it finally moving forward.

“It’s thrilling to be at this point,” Reynolds said. “Pat Zielke envisioned the River Point District back in 1986-87, or whatever it was. He was the one that thought, ‘You know what we could do with this land? Let’s do something really good with it. Let’s make this.’ And so, six mayors later, I get to be the one saying, ‘Let’s go. Let’s put this thing in the ground.’”

Hoffer believes early development will have a domino effect.

“Once some of these buildings are finished and they get the riverwalk extended from downtown through the River Point District, I think it’s going to be a high-traffic area,” Hoffer said. “I think people are going to want to be there. And, as soon as that happens, the businesses are going to follow.”

The Driftless Apartments and Townhomes plan by a Minneapolis-based company would consist of:

  • 100 affordable, senior-living apartments
  • 20 three-bedroom townhomes.
  • 48 residential units at or below 80% of the county median income
  • 48 units for residents at or below 50%
  • 24 units for residents at 30%

“That first development is going to be lower-income and workforce housing,” Reynolds said, adding, “So, for a single apartment, that might mean someone who’s 55 and older might be spending, $400-$500 on a one-bedroom apartment.”

FILE – Rendering of potential housing development in La Crosse’s River Point District.

Total cost is $11.7 million — made up of a slew of public investments, including TIF money that will come back to the taxpayers. Private funding for the project amounts to about 32% of the cost.

“This is going to be a great deal for everyone,” Reynolds said. “And, it’s the seed that will really begin a lot more development in River Point District. Once you build one thing and you have all of this — now this land’s ready to go. Now we have infrastructure that’s going into place, and so now it becomes a really prime place to build for all sorts of development.”

Host of WIZM's La Crosse Talk PM | University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate | Hometown: Greenville, Wis | Avid noonball basketball player and sand volleyballer in La Crosse

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  1. Matt Woychek

    March 10, 2023 at 9:26 pm

    This will be a great addition to the near downtown LAX area.

  2. Dan

    March 11, 2023 at 12:32 pm

    I think it will be like the other developments that were supposed to be for low income housing, then part way through the development it became apparent that they could make a ton more money going market rate rent and none of it became low rent. Apartments on the riverfront, what $1500 to $1800 a month versus $500 a month. That is a large chunk of cash they will be loosing out on. Or is the city subsiding the difference.

  3. Cindy wall

    March 11, 2023 at 2:47 pm

    This will be great. I would love to live there but worry about the cost.only living on ss

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