Officials gather to mark beginning of River Point District site prep
The first load of fill delivered to the site of River Point District June 8, is a tangible sign that the visionary mixed-use riverfront development, in the planning for more than 25 years, is becoming a reality.
Located at the confluence of the Black, La Crosse and Mississippi Rivers, the 65-acre parcel operated for years as an industrial site. In 1995, the City of La Crosse Redevelopment Authority (RDA) began buying parcels of land with development in mind. The first challenge for planners was to raise the site above the 100-year floodplain while preserving wetland habitat.
A total of 200,000 cubic yards of fill, enough to fill 60 Olympic-sized swimming pools, will raise the site at least two feet above the 100-year floodplain level. After a complete freeze/thaw cycle, construction can begin. The prime location of the development, close to downtown and along the scenic waterfront, makes it especially appealing for housing, which will be complemented by shops, offices and entertainment venues. The engineering firm of Short Elliott Hendrickson is in charge of planning the site preparation and Gerke Excavating will be prepping the site and providing the fill.
The fill for the site will be dredged from the Brownsville, Minnesota, area. According to Ryan Rasmussen of Gerke Excavating, the dredging of the material will be beneficial to the Army Corps of Engineers for other projects on the Mississippi River.
The fill phase of the project will take several months. Rasmussen estimated that about 12,000 truckloads of fill will be hauled to the site.
Local lender supports project with low-interest bonds
The initial infrastructure improvements will be financed with a $3 million bond sale that will cover the cost of providing fill, site preparation and other improvements. First National Bank of Bangor (FNBB) provided financing for the bond at a very competitive rate of 1.89%. Bill Bosshard, president of FNBB, said he’s glad to see the property being developed.
“It’s been talked about for years,” he said. “It’s valuable riverfront property. The more people you can get down there the better.”
La Crosse, he added, is a model for rehabbing downtown areas.
The RDA consulted with public finance advisors Ehlers, Inc. before issuing the request for proposals to potential lenders. Brian Reilly of Ehlers noted that the low interest rate increases the feasibility of the project. “Spending less on interest frees up funds to be directed to other areas,” he commented.
Interest among developers gains momentum
Interest in River Point District is growing among developers. In February, F Street Development Group (FSDG) entered into an agreement with the RDA that gives the firm an 18-month timeframe to determine the feasibility of building a mixed-use development that includes rental units and retail space in block “F” on the master plan and negotiating the purchase of land currently owned by the RDA. MSP Real Estate of Mendota Heights, Minnesota, one of the largest developers of senior housing in the region also signed an option agreement following the May 27 RDA meeting.
Other developers who have expressed interest include Twin Cities-based Oppidan, a firm that specializes in developing affordable and senior housing, MWF Properties of Richfield, Minnesota, which specializes in affordable housing, Adam Hoffler, UW-La Crosse professor and local developer and Merge Urban Development Group, which develops real estate in opportunity zones that have strong revitalization potential. Merge has offices in Madison and Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Several financial incentives are in place to attract investors and developers. River Point District is a designated Opportunity Zone with tax incentives, it is located in an established Tax Incremental Financing district and is part of the New Markets Tax Credits program.
Master developer for the site is WiRED of Milwaukee, a firm that specializes in creating physically interwoven and socially engaged neighborhoods. Rinka+, an architectural firm based in Milwaukee, created the original Planned Development District document that outlines the goals and vision for River Point District.
About River Point District
River Point District will be a visionary, mixed-use waterfront neighborhood where natural surroundings create opportunities for unique amenities and inspiring development. This neighborhood will connect the community to the rivers and downtown and include 800+ residential units, numerous business locations, green spaces and more. For more information, visit riverpointdistrict.com or contact Andrea Trane at [email protected].
Director of Planning, Development and Assessment for the City of La Crosse