News Column

City's loan program spurs interest in Roosevelt

July 18, 2014

By Patrick B. Anderson, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.



July 18--Three companies approached city officials with plans to redevelop Roosevelt Elementary School and use the North Side site for affordable housing.

Offering to use about $500,000 in federal funding to support low-income housing projects, members of the Community Development Block Grant Committee met to discuss proposals from four different developers interested in a financial boost from the city.

Three were interested in the Roosevelt site, La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat said. The committee nixed one Roosevelt proposal from qualifying because it failed to meet the program's low-income guidelines, but otherwise delayed any further discussion to avoid conflict with public school officials.

The La Crosse School District is still accepting offers on Roosevelt until 1 p.m. today, and school board members are scheduled to discuss proposals Monday.

"I'm worried we would make a recommendation and yet the school district would make a different recommendation," Kabat said. "I'm a little leery, I'd say, for lack of a better term."

Money for the city's block grant program is provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to support more housing options for cash-strapped residents.

"It can only be used to assist low- and moderate-income families," said Caroline Neilson, the city's community development administrator.

The city uses HUD funding to provide revolving low-interest loans to developers, aiming to bridge any gaps between building costs and bank funding, Neilson said.

Neilson was careful to clarify that the block grants are separate from the La Crosse School District's efforts to sell the Roosevelt site. Still, the city's committee meeting offered a glimpse at some of the offers local public school officials might receive:

--Impact Seven Inc., an Almena, Wis.-based firm, wants to turn Roosevelt into a senior housing building with 18 two-bedroom units and build 16 three-bedroom townhomes along Loomis Street. Estimated cost: $7.1 million.

--Commonwealth Development Corp., a Fond du Lac, Wis.-based company, hopes to transform Roosevelt into a 32-unit apartment building and build 12 townhomes along the northern edge of the site, with 15 percent of new housing reserved for homeless veterans. Estimated cost: $7.6 million.

--Gorman and Company Inc., an Oregon, Wis.-based business, wants to use the old Roosevelt building for 23 apartments, plus add 16 townhomes by constructing four four-unit buildings. Estimated cost: $8.3 million.

--City officials eliminated Impact Seven as a contender for the loan because senior housing doesn't meet the program's low-income guidelines.

The fourth proposal was from Minneapolis-based MetroPlains to redevelop the old Bakalars Sausage Co. factory at 2219 South Ave. MetroPlains has already signed a purchase agreement for the Bakalars building.

The company plans to turn the former factory into a 24-unit apartment building with one-, two- and three-bedroom suites, plus a fitness room, a play area, a lounge, a computer lab and an office, according to plans submitted to the city. The project is expected to cost more than $5 million.

Kabat asked staff to reach out to school district officials before scheduling interviews with MetroPlains, Commonwealth and Gorman. The district is scheduled to interview potential buyers at 5:30 p.m.July 31 and pick an offer Aug. 4.

Roosevelt, built in 1923, was the district's oldest operating school building until this year. Students and teachers are scheduled to reunite this fall in the new Northside Elementary School, after being divided for years between Roosevelt and the old Franklin Elementary School building.

Officials for the city and the school district have said they want the Roosevelt site to go back on the tax rolls. The school district published a request for proposal in the Tribune, and invited 19 developers to submit plans for the site, district finance director Janet Rosseter said. District officials are scheduled to discuss the offers in executive committee after Monday's regular board of education meeting

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(c)2014 the La Crosse Tribune (La Crosse, Wis.)

Visit the La Crosse Tribune (La Crosse, Wis.) at www.lacrossetribune.com

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Source: La Crosse Tribune (WI)


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