MANITOWOC — A building that welcomed visitors to the city for three decades — is now a pile of rubble.
Bulldozers tore down the former Visitor Information Center, with its distinctive large A-frame glass window, at 4221 Calumet Ave. in recent days, likely to make room for a car wash.
The city sold the site to GMX Real Estate Group for $1.6 million. City leaders agreed to the offer to buy from GMX in fall 2021. GMX assigned the purchase contract to Missouri-based Club Carwash Operating LLC earlier this year.
The sale of the site follows a decision by Manitowoc officials to sever ties with the Manitowoc Area Visitor & Convention Bureau and form a city tourism department.
Since then, the MAVCB, along with the Wisconsin Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus and former Manitowoc business The Hearty Olive, filed a lawsuit against the city and the Manitowoc Room Tax Commission.
The lawsuit, filed in December last year, claimed the city’s 2021 decision to drop its tourism contract with MAVCB was illegal and its new city tourism department did not meet the state’s requirement of a tourism identity.
The cities of Manitowoc and Two Rivers worked with the MAVCB to come to a new agreement. However, the city of Manitowoc abandoned those talks after the Manitowoc Room Tax Commission decided to create a new tourism department at City Hall.
At first, the city of Two Rivers continued negotiations with the MAVCB, but also eventually decided to cut ties and create its own tourism department.
In exchange for about half of the room tax dollars collected each year, the MAVCB provided a yearly visitor guide to the area, several events and the operation of the Visitor Center, among other marketing strategies.
In March, Judge Mark Rohrer said Manitowoc’s tourism department does not meet statutory qualifications to be a “tourism entity” and that the city must contract with the MAVCB for tourism promotion services and share room tax revenue under state law.
More on the court ruling: Judge orders Manitowoc to enter new agreement with Visitor & Convention Bureau
Mayor Justin Nickels told the Herald Times Reporter in August he’s hopeful the city’s Room Tax Commission and the MAVCB Board of Directors will be able to “reinvigorate those conversations (about how to work together on tourism promotion) and put an end to this once and for all.”
In a guest column to the newspaper, a group of Visitor Center volunteers expressed disappointment the building was empty.
“Its location at the main entrance to Manitowoc and the busiest intersection in our county is the perfect location to greet visitors,” they wrote. “At the beginning, it was the most significant building in that area. Over the next 30 years, development increased, and with the expansion of Harbor Town, this area has become heavily populated with big-box stores and chain restaurants."
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This article originally appeared on Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter: Manitowoc Visitor Center is torn down to make room for a car wash