Wisconsin

WALK-TO-WORK HOUSING: HISTORIC BREWERY ANCHORS RE-EMERGING NEIGHBORHOOD; HELPS RESIDENTS CONSERVE AND ECONOMIZE

As gas prices soar and environmental concerns grow, lofts bring innovative, affordable housing to
the heart of Wisconsin community 

La Crosse, April 17, 2008

With the ever-increasing cost of living, economic concerns continue to dominate headlines. Average Americans are looking to trim expenses and save resources. With gas prices at an all-time high and climbing, many are trying to reduce how often and how far they drive. Others, like some residents of the newly renovated Historic Gund Brewery Lofts in La Crosse, Wisconsin, have made a lifestyle change that is keeping money in their pockets and reducing their environmental footprint, as well.

The Historic Gund Brewery Lofts are an adaptive reuse of La Crosse’s former Gund Brewery by Madison, Wisconsin-based developer Gorman & Company. In the early stages of development, Gorman & Company recognized the vacant brewery’s pivotal location, nestled among some of the region’s largest employers, and began its transformation into an innovative, affordable, walk-to-work housing option.

One of the region’s largest employers, Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center, has a major campus just south of the Lofts. Like many employers, Gundersen Lutheran is challenged to attract and retain a quality workforce, and the renovated brewery has given them a great tool for doing so.

“Living close to work has simplified my life and my budget. As a young professional and mother, living here saves us money and gives us more time to be a family,” said building resident and hospital employee Emily Hiatt. “Beyond the obvious benefits — no commute, reduced gas costs, flexibility — living close to work has changed the way I feel. Gundersen is not just my employer; they’re my neighbor and an organization I feel invested in.”

The proximity of the Lofts to other major employers, such as the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Viterbo College, means reduced commutes, less gasoline used, and less reliance on cars for residents in the neighborhood.
“In an area targeted by the city as prime for redevelopment, the Lofts have given the neighborhood a dynamic anchor,” said Tom Capp, chief operating officer for Gorman & Company. “The cooperative efforts of Gorman & Company, Gundersen Lutheran, and the City of La Crosse to renovate this landmark resulted in a win-win for all parties, as well as the broader community.”

Gundersen Lutheran provided the land and the 58,000 square-foot building for the project. The original structure, first built in 1903 as the Gund Brewery bottling house, was converted into 41 spacious loft apartments. A new addition holds another 45 units. Sixty-eight units are income-targeted and rent-restricted, providing not only an innovative housing option but also an affordable one.

“As the project developed, it was extremely important to us to work with the City of La Crosse on their desire for affordable housing,” said Capp. “We had to be sure the Historic Gund Brewery Lofts would not only meet the need for workforce housing in the area, but be accessible to those with varying incomes.” To accomplish this goal, the development utilized Low Income Housing Tax Credits and Historic Tax Credits to subsidize the affordable units.
In addition to the benefits gained for those living close to work, finding a new use for a vacant building can be considered a major recycling project. Gorman & Company utilized existing infrastructure, walls, concrete, and other materials in the rehabilitation. In the old part of the building, as much original brick as possible was saved and repaired. An old loading dock is now a patio for residents.

Other efficient features include solar hot water, low-e windows, recycled rubber mulch in the play area, above-code insulation, compact fluorescent light bulbs, EnergyStar appliances, native landscaping in storm water retainage areas, and the replacement of a parking lot with green space. In addition, the Lofts are on a bike path that connects to the city’s riverway and downtown areas.

The reuse of the brewery also helped the community retain a strong piece of the city’s history. Maintaining its rich heritage, the development features brewery artifacts and exposed brick walls while adding a mix of modern amenities including a movie theater, community room, exercise studio, shared patio and grill, and business center.
Gorman & Company, Inc., headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin, was created in 1984 with a mission to create high-quality housing opportunities. Through its use of public and private partnerships, Gorman & Company specializes in the renovation of historic buildings and renaissance of traditional urban neighborhoods, and is renowned for its quality craftsmanship, dependability, and sensitivity to building communities. For more information or to view its portfolio, please visit www.GormanUSA.net. 

Note to editors: Please contact us for a selection of photography and to coordinate interviews with building residents as well as contacts at Gorman & Company and Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center.