Crawford County gives city 6 months to create Blackhawk Junction plan

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The east side of Blackhawk Junction Mall has been vacant for several years. Crawford County will determine what the extent of the structural damage is.


By Ted Pennekamp


City of Prairie du Chien representatives gave a presentation to Crawford County officials about Blackhawk Junction Mall at a joint County Finance/Delinquent Tax Committee meeting May 29.

City Administrator Chad Abram told county officials that the city would like up to six months to work with county leaders to initiate a strategic development plan for Blackhawk Junction, which the county recently took ownership of due to foreclosure on the property because of unpaid back taxes of $488,988.

Abram said Blackhawk Junction has strong development potential and the city will hire Vandewalle and Associates, an urban planning company based in Madison, for $500 to get a plan in place as soon as possible.

Abram said there has been bad blood in the past between the city and the county but the city would like to bury the hatchet and move forward and work well with the county for strategic planning for the property.

“This property can be a catalytic development,” said Jim Bowman, the executive director of Driftless Development Inc., the economic development organization for Crawford County. “I’m confident this development can be something we all can be proud of. This can be an $8 million to $10 million development which can spark further development.”

Abram and Bowman said they would like to create a team consisting of city and county leaders to help layout the development plan.

The team will look at what the needs are for the four businesses currently a part of Blackhawk Junction Mall. He said the team will also encourage new tenants and look into possible housing development on the property. There are some minor environmental issues with the property and a site remediation plan will also need to be created.

The team can also look into potential uses for the property and potential grants. If all goes well, Bowman said the city would like to finalize a development agreement with the county and recruit developers.

If the county doesn’t like the development plan, the county can sell the property at auction as it has in the past with other foreclosed upon properties.

Representatives of the four businesses at Blackhawk Junction (Associated Bank, H&R Block, Mississippi Meats and Suppz Gym) said they would like a lease agreement so that they have protection from being evicted by whomever ends up buying the property. They also said their rent is excessive and they would like a reasonable rent.

County Attorney Mark Peterson reminded the county officials present that the main objective for the county is to get paid for the back taxes on the property. Peterson recommended short-term leases, and for the county to come to an agreement with the four healthy tenants.

The Finance and Delinquent Tax committees voted to allow the city and Vandewalle and Associates up to six months to create a development plan. They also voted to lower the rent for the four tenants from 75 cents per square foot per month to 55 cents per square foot per month. Seventy-five cents per square foot per month equals $9 per square foot per year. Fifty-five cents equals $6.60 per square foot per year.

It was noted by the four tenants and by County Treasurer Deanne Lutz that the buildings on Blackhawk Junction have structural issues that need to be dealt with, such as leaky roofs. It was agreed upon that the county will also take care of maintenance of the outside of the buildings and snow plowing. The tenants will handle utilities and the inside of the buildings.

In addition, Lutz said Blackhawk Junction generates approximately $90,000 in property taxes per year.

Immediately following the joint Finance and Delinquent Tax Committee meeting, there was a Delinquent Tax Committee meeting to further discuss Blackhawk Junction Mall.

Lutz noted that the part of the mall that has been unoccupied for the last several years needs to be assessed for damage inside and out. She also said people have broken into the unoccupied buildings and “nesting” and needles have been found.

Blackhawk Junction Mall has an assessed value of $3,349,500. The total acreage is 9.131.

Lutz presented a chart which showed that the city of Prairie du Chien is now trying to bill the county for a fire and numerous false alarms that all occurred before the county owned Blackhawk Junction Mall. One of the largest businesses in the mall, Slumberland Furniture, was destroyed by a fire on May 12, 2014. The city is trying to bill the county for $785 for responding to the fire, according to the chart. The city is also trying to bill the county for false fire alarms that range in price from $100 to $1,000 and numerous prices in between. The total amount the city is trying to bill the county is $9,883.31.

Crawford County Real Property Lister GiGi Collins said the amounts of the bills are outrageous, and she wondered why the bill for the fire is $785 while some of the false alarms are for more.

Attorney Mark Peterson recommended that the county not pay the bills until it is determined if the city has the authority to issue such bills to the county.

Blackhawk Junction Mall has owed back taxes since 2014. The mall was purchased on Oct. 23, 2006, by Blackhawk Junction LLC of Madison. Blackhawk Junction Mall is located at 700 E. Blackhawk Ave., Prairie du Chien.

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