On Wednesday morning, the La Crosse community got an inside look at the northside school turned apartment building. The Roosevelt School Apartments is the latest historic preservation project to be completed in the city.
"I was number 15 which was Bart Starr's number," said Representative Ron Kind (D). "That's how I remember it."
Representative Kind fondly remembers his time as a student at Roosevelt Elementary School.
"It is just like yesterday," he said. "I remember my teachers, Principal Franke, my classmates, the fun we had here, the trouble we got into."\
He joined community members for the grand opening of Roosevelt School Apartments.
"Now, having the chance to preserve this beautiful historic building with quality affordable housing in our northside neighborhood, giving other people a chance to create some lasting memories--what a great collaboration," Rep. Kind said.
Wisconsin-based apartment group, Gorman and Company, turned classrooms into 3 one- and two-bedroom apartment units.
"All of these apartments are market-rate quality," said Ted Matkom, Wisconsin Market President of Gorman and Company. "Great finishes, great layouts, but it's affordable rent, because it is subsidized by WEDA tax credits."
"Three quarters of all of the affordable housing in the county is located in the City of La Crosse," said Mayor Tim Kabat. "This just adds to that mix."
Some remnants of the school still remain including original doors and windows, locker-lined hallways, and 'Northside Stars' cemented in the floor. The building is a tribute to La Crosse's history.
"This is a shining example of what that historic tax credit can do to wonderful historic buildings like schools that are in La Crosse and other communities in Wisconsin," said Matkom. "We really should preserve our heritage."
The grand opening comes at a time when historic tax credits and Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) are in jeopardy at both a state and federal level. Lawmakers attended the grand opening, saying they are committed to fighting for this funding. The new $6.9 million project depended on that financial support, and Mayor Kabat believes the funding will be vital to more historic preservation in the future.
"The historic nature and character of our community is part of how we grow it going forward," Kabat said.
At Wednesday's grand opening, Gorman and Company hosted a school supply drive. Supplies donated went to the La Crosse School District. Gorman and Company also presented the district with more than $300 for supplies as well as a donation of more than 60 backpacks.