Historic landmark designation impacting La Crosse fire department plans

Local News

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – A La Crosse fire station is now a historical landmark, which is throwing a wrench into the fire department’s redevelopment plans. First News at Nine’s Alex Loroff tells us what’s next for the oldest fire station in the city.

Fire Station No. 4 has been standing at the corner of Gillette and Liberty Streets since 1940.

It’s the oldest active fire station in La Crosse, but demolition and reconstruction plans put it at risk until a historic preservation group stepped in.

“It was back in late December, early January that we first heard that they were talking about demolishing Fire Station No. 4,” Preservation Alliance of La Crosse President Barbara Kooiman said. “We were looking at what option we had to at least slow down the process so that there could at least be a conversation.”

The Preservation Alliance nominated the station for a historic landmark designation through the City’s Heritage Preservation Commission.

The nomination was approved last week, causing the fire department to pause its plans.

“Over a good chunk of last year we were working on design plans to encompass a new expanded fire station, as well as a merger of the north side community policing station,” La Crosse Fire Chief Ken Gilliam detailed.

Now, Gilliam is shifting focus to another station on La Crosse’s north side.

“We’ve moved now the prioritization to Station No. 2 and that dialogue with the station on Monitor Street moving down to La Crosse [Street],” Gilliam said. “We’re working through steps to at least get that groundbreaking going this fall and get moving on one of those two critical stations.”

Kooiman says there are discussions happening about how the Station No. 4 building could be used in the future.

“[Maybe] repurposing it into residential, maybe office space, perhaps a community center, some people have thrown out the idea of a fire museum,” Kooiman listed. “We are very open to working with the City and helping find a developer or somebody who’s willing to take it on.”

Gilliam says he’s neutral about the situation, he just wants a property outline so the department knows what to work with.

In La Crosse, Alex Loroff, First News at Nine.

The City Council can overturn the designation with a two-thirds majority vote which would allow the demolition to continue as planned.

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