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Onalaska looking to improve on its greatest asset

By Ann Knoedler

Request for Proposals from Developers for the Purchase and Redevelopment of City-Owned Parcels in the Waterfront Redevelopment Area, Onalaska, La Crosse County

The city of Onalaska has big, bold plans for its magnificent Black River waterfront. The Black River is a tributary of the Mississippi River, and Onalaska is lucky enough to be situated near both.

In 2008, city officials adopted the Onalaska Waterfront Master Plan. It provides a five-year plan to redevelop and revitalize the waterfront and downtown area — called the Great River Landing Project.

This month, the city officially issued a request for proposals from developers to purchase and redevelop city-owned parcels (on Second Avenue and Court Street) in the waterfront redevelopment area. Developer’s submittals are due back to the city in February.

But if you’re an interested developer, don’t wait too long to get involved because Dec. 1 is the deadline to make arrangements for a presubmittal meeting.

Here is an overview of the master plan projects and associated timelines:

2011: Private redevelopment site;

2011: Onalaska Public Market;

2012: STH 35 (Great River Road) Reconstruction/Streetscaping (JJR LLC, Madison, was hired to develop the streetscaping design);

2012: Wittenberg Marsh Environmental Education Area;

2012: Boating facilities

2013: Onalaska Welcome and Tourism Center — to house the Center for the Cultural and Natural History of the Upper Mississippi River;

2011-2013: Waterfront park improvements;

2012-2013: Riverwalk overlooks/fishing nodes.

With the help of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is constructing a new facility that will augment Onalaska’s redevelopment efforts. Late next year (probably in the fall), the brand new Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, La Crosse District Headquarters and Visitor Center Building will be unveiled. The design/build firm for the project is Arrowhead Contracting Inc., Lenexa, Kan.

I’m a huge fan of Wisconsin, and there’s so much to celebrate about each region. So, I’ll take the liberty of ending my thoughts with a brief plug for travel in the great Mississippi River area of the state.

For those who like to keep their vacations close to home, there is a beautiful stretch of highway along the Mississippi River. It’s called the Great River Road National Scenic Byways (State Trunk Highway 35). The Wisconsin section of this road runs from Prescott (Pierce County) in the north to Kieler (Grant County) in the south. It’s 250 miles of heart grabbing scenery through 33 communities — and Onalaska is one of them.

Ann Knoedler is the lead data reporter at The Daily Reporter and has taken the Great River Road National Scenic Byways many times.

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