Everyone loves talking about John Mogensen
by Mike Paulus
Last Sunday, the L-T ran a relatively lengthy article on Mr. John Mogensen – the local developer people around here seem to either love or hate. Many people applaud his record of buying old (sometimes historical) local buildings and renovating them into usable, often very cool spaces for restaurants, apartments, and more. But just as often, you hear people complaining about how long he takes to complete projects, how projects often end up as something other than originally promised, how much rent he charges, and on and on. The most common complaint seems to be the vague utterance Mogensen owns half the damn town. And while monopolizing chunks of the city certainly sounds like a negative thing, most people are unable to truly explain why it’s so awful for him to do so.
The L-T article is pretty diplomatic – it covers his successes in building renovation and digs into some of the complaints the city has had with Mogensen’s business practices. For example, in 2006, the city granted him its only available liquor license for The Livery bar/restaurant, but it sat unused for almost two years while other businesses had to pay for significantly more expensive “reserve” liquor licenses. The city even pulled The Livery’s license only to reissue it a few weeks later. Stuff like that obviously doesn’t sit well with the city – or other business owners.
As far as negative commentary on Mogensen, the article focuses solely on his relationship with the the city, never digging into his standing in the general business community. I think it’s safe to say that he’s got some haters out there – competing business and property owners, other landlords, tenants, etc. But anyone who owns/co-owns at least 336 parcels of land in the City of Eau Claire alone, amounting to a tax assessed value of $54.4 million ... well, anyone like that is bound to have some "enemies."
If there’s one thing I don’t think you can argue with, it’s this: the guy is local. He’s preserved a number of important Eau Claire properties and he seems to be obsessed with collecting memorabilia from long-defunct local businesses. The L-T article (for which you must pay to read) even mentions that in high school Mogensen worked in a pool hall at 2 S. Barstow – his latest acquisition/giant project. I have a feeling his work on that building will give us something to discuss, criticize, gossip about, and eventually applaud for years to come.
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