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Walk-To-Work Housing: Historic Brewery Anchors Re-Emerging Neighborhood; Helps Residents Conserve and Economize

Friday, April 18, 2008 General News J E 4
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LA CROSSE, Wis., April 17 With the ever-increasing cost ofliving, economic concerns continue to dominate headlines. Average Americansare looking to trim expenses and save resources. With gas prices at anall-time high and climbing, many are trying to reduce how often and how farthey drive. Others, like some residents of the newly renovated Historic GundBrewery Lofts in La Crosse, Wisconsin, have made a lifestyle change that iskeeping money in their pockets and reducing their environmental footprint, aswell.

The Historic Gund Brewery Lofts are an adaptive reuse of La Crosse'sformer Gund Brewery by Madison, Wisconsin-based developer Gorman & Company.In the early stages of development, Gorman & Company recognized the vacantbrewery's pivotal location, nestled among some of the region's largestemployers, 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, GundersenLutheran is challenged to attract and retain a quality workforce, and therenovated brewery has given them a great tool for doing so.

"Living close to work has simplified my life and my budget. As a youngprofessional and mother, living here saves us money and gives us more time tobe 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 isnot just my employer; they're my neighbor and an organization I feel investedin."

The proximity of the Lofts to other major employers, such as theUniversity of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Viterbo College, means reduced commutes,less gasoline used, and less reliance on cars for residents in theneighborhood.

"In an area targeted by the city as prime for redevelopment, the Loftshave given the neighborhood a dynamic anchor," said Tom Capp, chief operatingofficer for Gorman & Company. "The cooperative efforts of Gorman & Company,Gundersen Lutheran, and the City of La Crosse to renovate this landmarkresulted in a win-win for all parties, as well as the broader community."

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

"As the project developed, it was extremely important to us to work withthe City of La Crosse on their desire for affordable housing," said Capp. "Wehad to be sure the Historic Gund Brewery Lofts would not only meet the needfor workforce housing in the area, but be accessible to those with varyingincomes." To accomplish this goal, the development utilized Low IncomeHousing Tax Credits and Historic Tax Credits to subsidize the affordableunits.

In addition to the benefits gained for those living close to work, findinga new use for a vacant building can be considered a major recycling project.Gorman & Company utilized existing infrastructure, walls, concrete, and othermaterials in the rehabilitation. In the old part of the building, as muchoriginal brick as possible was saved and repaired. An old loading dock is nowa patio for residents.

Other efficient features include solar hot water, low-e windows, recycledrubber mulch in the play area, above-code insulation, compact fluorescentlight bulbs, EnergyStar appliances, native landscaping in storm waterretainage areas, and the replacement of a parking lot with green space. Inaddition, the Lofts are on a bike path that connects to the city's riverwayand downtown areas.

The reuse o
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