Kmart

Kmart

The Big Opportunity that Wasn't

What Happened

When K-Mart sold to two local investor, George Parke and Festival Foods, to much fanfare about there being a public-private partnership to develop the site. Positioned on 7.9 acres at the intersection of Highway 16s and 33, it is a highly visible location — you might even say an anchor to that corner. It has a gorgeous view of the bluffs.

Ah. The potential. Read of the original ideas here >>

The goal in December of 2018 was to develop a mixed use building, with business on the bottom and apartments on the top.

The purchase was smart on Festival’s part. The building would be a great location for a competitor. Better to buy the land and develop it as desired. 

But there were no takers.

The already questionable condition of the building turned more bleak for the 88,400 sq. ft. building.

The one taker — U-Haul.

Nothing against U-Haul. They provide a needed service. But when the stars have been talked about, the moon just isn’t isn’t as bright. The dream was there. The timing isn’t. We aren’t mourning you, U-Haul, we’re mourning what could have been. 

The Concern of Neighbors

This isn’t a done deal. To change the site to how U-Haul wants to use the site requires a zoning change, meaning the City must approve it. U-Haul has not purchased the building.

U-Haul spoke to neighbors who, of course, have questions and concerns from appearance, lighting, potential traffic all came up. The conversation with the Bluffside Neighborhood Association was, reportedly, cordial. Read more here >>. 

There is, however, a significant obstacle. The City requires storage units to be zoned industrial so that they are developed in industrial parks. Once zoned industrial, it opens the door for future businesses not aligning well with the nearby neighborhood.  

A Knight in Shining Armor?

Some communities have had success with U-Hauls going into former Kmarts. Like La Crosse, they need to fill empty stores. We have a few Shopkos and a mall to go. Check out the sidebar story on our lost property taxes by having this particular Kmart not filled.

Most multi-location businesses develop a look and feel to their stores. It helps reinforce their brand, makes changes easier, and reduces keeps construction design costs and hence time. 

U-Haul has figured out they can retrofit a Kmart well for their needs and are buying up empty Kmarts all across the country. In fact, they have at least 13 purchased – from California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington, and in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. Read more here >>

We’ve spotlighted many more headlines of Kmart / U-Haul conversions.

They say by reusing the existing building aligns with their sustainability efforts, keeping the demolition materials out of the landfill and the costs to transport it there. They tout Detroit as a great example. Read more here >>

In act, the very valid concerns of Bluffside neighbors echo other communities that U-Haul has rehabbed in Dayton >> and Santa Ynez, NM.  

 

What Would Change Look Like?

 Since we’re not the first, we can see what change looks like. Take a look. This is what increasing our tax base looks like once we face the reality that what we hoped for isn’t possible, yet.

 

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$ Property Taxes Paid - 2010

$ Property Taxes Paid -2020

Lost Taxes to La Crosse Public Schools

Lost Taxes to Western Technical College

Current Estimated Fair Market Value

+ Expected Improvements (up to $7 million)

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