La Crosse downtown resurgence

Aerial view of La Crosse downtown with bluffs and blue bridge in the distance.La Crosse’s downtown has continued to grow with more than $450 million invested in office space, retail, restaurants, educational facilities, convention space and hotel rooms in the last five years, according to Downtown Mainstreet, Inc. Image from 2016.

What’s new downtown? About 135 businesses, including twice the number of hotels in the last five years

UW-La Crosse alumni may recall downtown La Crosse for its nightlife, but today they will find much more than that at the heart of the city.

La Crosse’s downtown is home to 135 new businesses in the last five years, including more than double the number of hotels — increasing from four to nine between 2015-17.

The city’s downtown is resurging as a central social district, explains Robin Moses, executive director of La Crosse’s Downtown Mainstreet Inc.

Several major business investments in recent years, such as the transformation of a county parking lot into Belle Square and upgrades to the Doerflinger Building to accommodate Duluth Trading Co., were among the catalysts for new development.

“When something new opens, it puts confidence in the community, and you’ll see new people opening and renovating,” explains Moses.

More than $450 million has been invested in office space, retail, restaurants, educational facilities, convention space and hotel rooms in the last five years, according to Downtown Mainstreet Inc.

The fastest growing market for downtown businesses are those that provide experiences, says Moses. For example, La Crosse’s downtown now has three escape rooms where participants work together to solve puzzles or riddles to escape from a simulated situation within a set time limit.

For many years downtowns hung on to the need to be the business district of the community. But malls opened and many of those businesses moved, following consumers. As consumer trends continue to shift, downtowns are finding a new place in society, she says.

“Now, we are seeing this shift back to the charm and character of historic downtown as a place people want to gather,” she says.

A Downtown Mainstreet Inc. discount card, which is part of UWL Alumni Association member benefits, offers discounts at many downtown La Crosse businesses.

Downtown La Crosse growth

The Charmant Hotel
$32 million project, 67 Rooms, 115 jobs October 2014- August 2015
The Hampton Inn
$10 million project, 126 Rooms, 30 jobs October 2014- October 2015
The Fairfield Inn
$12 million project, 92 Rooms, 30 jobs June 2015- June 2016
Hilton Home2 Suites
$8 million project, 107 Suites, 30 jobs May 2016- August 2016
Gundersen Hotel & Suites
$10 million project, 67 rooms, 30 jobs April 2016- September 2017

Belle Square Development
$68 million mixed use, 500 jobs May 2015- December 2017
Pischke Motors Collision Center
$2 million auto center, 10 jobs May 2015- September 2015
The Chalmers Building
$12 million office building, 40 jobs Fall 2016- August 2017
Landmark by the Rivers
$33 million mixed use development Fall 2017- December 2019
The Weber Center for the Performing Arts
$10 million theater, 50 jobs November 2011- January 2013

The Court Above Main
$1 million event venue, 10 jobs January 2015- June 2015
Duluth Trading Co.
$1.2 million retail project, 40 jobs January 2016- June 2016
The Weigert Building
$1 million renovation, 20 jobs April 2016- Spring 2017
La Crosse Distilling Co.
$2 million new distillery, 30 jobs December 2017- Sept 2018
$500,000 restaurant remodel, 40 jobs June 2016- December 2016
Dales and Rocky Rococo Buildings
$1.5 million facade and interior remodel Spring 2018- Spring 2019
Over 50 additional private improvement projects have
occurred and many more are currently being planned.

– From Downtown Mainstreet Inc. Great City Guide

Quick facts
Number of Businesses: 600
Number of Buildings: 315
Number of Storefronts: 280
Number of Vacant Storefronts: 17
% of Vacant Storefronts: 6%