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La Crosse’s River Point District could have possibly had a Costco — and basically just a Costco

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FILE - Late-afternoon light baths the entrance to a Costco warehouse Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, in Sheridan, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Jason Gilman’s job as project manager for La Crosse’s River Point District could have been real easy.

The $300-million, 65-acre site, which has 28 acres for development, could have essentially been complete if he’d have just given the green light to one giant box store that had shown interest.

“ There was a time when we had big box retail looking at it,” Gilman said Tuesday on La Crosse Talk PM. “Costco was among the names floating around out there for La Crosse.

“But I think that was a ship that had sailed a long time ago because the citizens, when they did the master plan, the charrette work — going back to John Medinger when he was mayor — they really wanted it to be housing. They didn’t want some sort of a new novelty extension of downtown that would take business out 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.


A Costco adjacent to downtown La Crosse, taking up vital riverfront property, just wasn’t a good fit in a variety of ways.

“Costcos are 200,000 square feet,” Gilman said. “They take up 20 acres. It would have literally almost taken the entire site.”

Selling out to Costco wouldn’t have been as lucrative, as Gilman compares River Point to the Copper Rocks site, where the old Kmart is yet to be torn down.

“I think the Kmart site, when it closed, was assessed at $4 million,” Gilman said. “That’s a 15-acre site that the Kmart sat on, and this is 28 acres at $300 million.”

And while the idea seems to have always been a hard “no” for the district, it may have just been lukewarm for Costco to build there.

“I don’t know that it was ever all that feasible, except that it’s just an interesting thing to contemplate,” Gilman said, “because, as you said, the other side of it is traffic. A Walmart Supercenter, last time I checked — and this was years ago — does 10,000 trips per day. So if you think about that in the context of Copeland (Avenue), which is doing 30,000 trips per day, that’s a lot of traffic.”

To alleviate that, Costcos are usually built near an interstate. Putting one at River Point would have been a little out of place.

Another argument, that could go both ways, is what a Costco would do for those area businesses. It could harm them simply by selling the same goods or it could possibly help, being that it would bring in a lot of customers.

Regardless, Gilman referred back to River Point’s master plan, where he said most of the land is now sold and 90% of the district is housing.

“ This is the thing that cities are trying to do — build more housing and certainly build it within a 10 minute walk of their downtown,” Gilman said. “And so we’re very fortunate to have that vision.

“ Instead of having 2,500 new consumers living within a 10 minute walk of downtown, they would have — not directly competing — but they’d have something else that would take up retail space out there,” Gilman continued. “I think there was some concern about that.

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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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Bob N.

    June 26, 2024 at 6:56 am

    Walk to downtown? To do what? Dumpy bars, strange people day and night. Do they really think new residents will walk 8-10 blocks to frequent the seediest part of la Crosse?
    A Costco would do more for La Crosse than all these artsy crafty idea shops where people with purple hair shop. A Costco would completely renovate the deteriorating Causeway. Costcos cause immediate improvement to the neighborhood with bright new shops opening adjacent. People drive 75-100 miles for Costco from the trade area-an immediate boost to La Crosse retail.

    • Yvonne

      June 26, 2024 at 8:40 am

      I agree 100%. The rent for these apts. will be too high for most people living here. And they have condos for sale right next to the apts. Why would anyone want their expensive Condo situated that close to an apt.complex. Is there underground parking? If not why not. We can have bad winter’s with lots of snowstorms, ice, etc. Are the owners paying taxes because the renters won’t be. Will there be any retail in that development? I don’t mean insurance companies either. I’d rather shop at a Costco than a Walmart. That’s my opinion but the city Father’s don’t care what most of us peons think or want. We need better leadership in city hall instead of someone who does little to stop crime, fix all the local roads & potholes or come up with a plan where taxpayers aren’t paying
      those the nose to house homeless. It starts with a qualified, smart, innovative leader that we desperately need in La Crosse.

  2. Walden

    June 26, 2024 at 7:18 pm

    Odd how this went down. Why are we just hearing about this Costco opportunity now, years later?

    Our lovely downtown is almost dead. One day last week around noon I saw a women defecate on the side walk along King Street across from where the Glory Days Bar formerly was. How I wish I could unsee that. She continued walking over to the bus barn as if nothing unusual had happened. I wouldn’t go near that place if you paid me.

  3. WHYLACROSSE

    June 28, 2024 at 6:18 pm

    If Costco does take up 200,000 square feet of space, they occupy 4.5 acres, not 20 acres. Costco would want to be out by the mall area where all the traffic is. Why would anyone want to come into downtown La Crosse, and pay outrageous taxes and fight with the city on roads and infrastructure????

  4. Rick Solem

    July 1, 2024 at 3:37 am

    Parking.

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