Conversion of former Wyalusing Academy starts soon

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The remnants of two recently demolished storage sheds and their former contents sit south of the former Wyalusing Academy building, soon to become Lawler School Lofts apartment complex. (Photo by Correne Martin)

By Correne Martin

Activity at the former Wyalusing Academy property in Prairie du Chien may have caught the attention of anyone taking notice recently. Two storage sheds on the south end of the main structures were disassembled and discarded. Commonwealth Corporation is preparing to start construction inside the historic facility as soon as spring arrives.

The future apartment complex, Lawler School Lofts, is expected to be open within one year of the construction beginning, according to Kevin McDonell, vice president of development, Commonwealth Development Corporation of America.

River to Valley Initiatives, the current owner, removed the old sheds, which will be replaced with a couple new garages for parking, McDonell said.

“Our construction team is doing its preliminary due diligence on the inside of the facility. We’re hoping as soon as things dry up, construction can start,” McDonell stated.

Interior work will include demolition of some inner walls, refinishing the wood floors where they’re salvageable, installing new heating and cooling systems, upgrading the windows, and much more.

“The entire structure will stay intact,” McDonell noted. “The final approval of our historic tax credit came through at the end of December. Since then, we’ve reviewed our final construction plans and specs.”

Commonwealth was awarded $480,000 in tax credits to convert the historic building into multi-family housing.

Currently, McDonell added, the land survey is in the approval process. Once complete, the transfer of the property from River to Valley Initiatives to Commonwealth Corporation will happen.

Lawler School Lofts will offer 40, two- to three-bedroom apartments within the 80,000 square-foot building. McDonell said, as soon as construction starts, the property management team will begin marketing the apartments.

The renovation project is named for John Lawler, a 19th-century ferry operator who donated land and funds for the construction of St. Mary’s Academy, the state’s first women’s college.

The building was operated as Wyalusing Academy from 1969 until it was closed by the state in 2013 after the residential care center failed to ensure proper safety for one of its youth residents.

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