LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW)-- A step forward for the proposal to sell the La Crosse County Administration Center to a company planning to convert it to student housing for Western Technical College.
The committee overseeing the project approved the proposal for purchase by Three Sixty Real Estate Solutions, but it's contingent upon approval of terms and conditions of the sale.
The 50-year-old administrative center is in dire need of repairs, including about $1.5 million in asbestos clean up. But instead the county is considering selling the building for $250,000 and relocating or building a new center for county offices.
"We want to work with the city, we want to work with WTC, we want to work with our neighbors, so if a project come sin that values those relationships, which this one appears to do, we are going to give that credit and take that in to consideration," said Joe Veenstra, a county board supervisor.
Three Sixty Real Estate Solutions wants to gut the administrative center and construct student housing for Western Technical College, though the real estate company plans to retain ownership of the building.
"It's an adaptive reuse project, so we're about sustainability and reusing this and it serves a need in our market place and servicing the student housing need," said Marvin Wanders, the owner of the company.
The committee in charge of the project weighed the pros and cons of the sale before passing the proposal.
"It looks like a really great proposal for WTC," Veenstra said. "It involves some tough decisions for the county, in the sense that it requires us moving our administrative center to a potential new location."
Constructing a new building would cost an estimated $23 million; about $1.7 million more than the estimated cost of renovating the existing structure. However, Veenstra says the county isn't utilizing the space.
"We don't use all the space in this building. It's not the right size for our administrative center. There's a lot of empty space."
On the ‘pro' side, selling the building and having it in private ownership means it goes on the tax rolls. Three Sixty estimates the tax value would be around $6.8 million, meaning $200,000 in property taxes. The county anticipates it would get about $25,000 of the taxes.
Three Sixty also says the project will create jobs.
"Development team is local, our company is local, our employees are local," Wanders said. "This is a fun project because it's in our backyard and make an impact in the community we live and we can actually employee a lot of people through this project"
The executive committee will take up the proposal on July 10 at 8 am where public comments will be accepted. The measure will then need full county board approval. And final terms and conditions of the sale will again need committee and full board approval.
There are still a lot of steps necessary before the sale is final, but the ultimate goal for Three Sixty would be to open the new housing to students in July of 2016.
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