Lake front properties subjects of city of Beaver Dam negotiations

September 20, 2018

Rows of manicured front lawns and tall shady trees on West Third Street come to a halt with a pair of eyesores: An empty, three-story brick building and a chain link fence surrounding a vacant lot.

In the neighborhood north of Tahoe Park and Haskell Street, residents have wondered for years what will happen with the former Lakeview Hospital building that sits on the shore of Beaver Dam Lake.

Now they have something new to wonder about: The hole in the ground that used to be the Third Street apartment building, which was destroyed by a fire in April.

“Something should be done with this because it’s an eyesore for years,” said Nina Bellanti-Johnson, who lives in a house right across the street from Lakeview with her husband Dewey. “We had to call the police officers to come over all the time because everyone wants to be there because they think it’s haunted.”

Nina and Dewey have a full view of Lakeview and its cracked parking lot from the porch of their dark green house.

“We’re pretty ‘live and let live’ people. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve called the police in my life and all five times might’ve been over here,” Dewey said. “I’m amazed no one’s been hurt or killed yet, but I have no doubt someone will be.”

They said they wondered why the building has been allowed to sit vacant for so long and how it could affect their property value in an otherwise quiet, attractive neighborhood. They said they want to see it torn down as soon as possible regardless of what might come next (though it would be cool to have a nice building or a new park, they said).

City officials have been meeting in closed session for months about buying the Lakeview Building, 208 LaCrosse St., from Beaver Dam Community Hospitals. BDCH owned the building through 2005 and bought it back in 2016. City discussion about property purchases commonly happens behind closed doors and officials have not said much beyond that it is in discussion.

The hole in the ground that used to be the Third Street apartments, at 600 W. Third St., appeared for the first time on a closed session agenda before the Common Council on Monday alongside the Lakeview property. The council discussed offers to purchase the two properties and their redevelopment for about 45 minutes, but adjourned without taking any action or providing any additional information.

Christopher Kuranz who owns the Third Street property, said he plans to donate the land to the city and if accepted he hopes there would be a memorial placed on the property for the two people who died in the April 7 fire. The burned out building was recently demolished.

City Attorney Maryann Schacht said that the property will be on the agenda of the city’s plan commission on Wednesday.

Mayor Becky Glewen has noted that she is frustrated the process has taken as long as it has, but she is confident it will be taken care of as conversations continue.

The Lakeview building went through multiple owners after 2005, all with different plans that didn’t pan out, before Beaver Dam Community Hospitals took it back over in 2016 under undisclosed terms.

In a full-page advertisement published in the Daily Citizen, Jim Kirsh, the chair of the BDCH board, said that several developers looked at the property after 2016, but negotiations always fell through. He said developers found rehabbing the vacant building, or even just knocking it down, to be too cost prohibitive.

He said the site would be ideal for condos or apartments.

In 2016, the city used $55,000 of a $150,000 grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to cover an environmental study, with the city still able to obtain the rest.

“It has a spectacular view of the lake,” Kirsh wrote in the ad. “There are several older brick homes in the area, lots of mature trees and sidewalks. With the parks nearby, it would be a highly desirable neighborhood if the building were removed.”

The hospital used the Lakeview Building as a long term care facility until 1994, when residents were moved into Hillside Manor. It then became known as the Lakeview Community Wellness Center, with a food pantry, youth programs, massage therapy and more until 2005. After that, the building cycled through different owners who had plans for the property, such as senior housing, that never came to be.

The Lakeview building was a 1936 extension of the 1909 Lamoreux mansion, built for the namesake industrialist D.P. Lamoreux. The mansion was also converted into a hospital building before falling into disrepair and being demolished in 1981. BDCH was formed in 1972 when St. Joseph’s Hospital merged with Lutheran Hospital and they centralized operations into what became known as the Lakeview building.

The two-story Executive Apartments, 600 W. Third St., were built in the 1960s and fell to a fire in April. Corrine Bolin, 63, and Jade Wilson, 24, died in the fire. Insurance investigators determined that the fire started on a stove in Bolin’s apartment. The insurance company wrote in June that it planned to move forward with the demolition of the building.

In between the Third Street apartment and Lakeview building is the Silas McClure home, which was detached from the Lakeview property and restored by two business partners about a decade ago.

That house, 604 W. Third St., was recently purchased by JCW Development, a firm associated with Ben Westra, who owns WDS Construction.

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