Firm picked for Racine WI Water Street area demolition, cleanup

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RACINE — The demolition and cleanup of nearly 27 acres of old, industrial Downtown properties will soon commence to create a clear redevelopment area and refurbished riverfront. The demolition bids for the Water Street Redevelopment Area — including what was once called Machinery Row — were opened Friday morning. The low bidder was Veit & Co. of Rogers, Minn., at $2,826,161.50. Other bids ranged as high as about $6.2 million. Tom Eeg, the city assistant public works commissioner, said he expects the bid results to go before the Racine Redevelopment Authority on Thursday. If the RDA accepts the Veit bid, work can begin. Eeg said he expects work to begin by the week of July 30 at the latest.
Fifteen buildings will be razed including:
The two old J.I. Case Co. buildings that were the subject of the former Machinery Row plan.
Assorted outbuildings between Water Street and the river including those on the former Azarian Marina property.
The four-story former Case Plow Works building at 615 Marquette St. (site of the former Factory of Fear haunted house).
And a sprawling former industrial building at 526 Marquette St. that housed an indoor motocross track.

The project will also include remediation of all environmental issues such as asbestos removal. Both of the large former Case buildings north of Water Street are covered with asbestos-containing material.
Mayor Cory Mason said reaching this point in the Water Street Redevelopment Area “represents a clean slate — literally and metaphorically. I have been advocating for sustainable, inclusive waterfront redevelopment on the Root since 2005. This marks the first tangible progress toward that goal. It is an important milestone.”
The specified project completion dates are Dec. 31 for abatement and remediation, March 31 for demolition of all buildings and May 31 for final completion of the entire project.
Prepping for redevelopment
Environmental remediation, razing of buildings and building a public river walk, or promenade, along the Root River are all key steps toward creating an inviting Downtown-area milieu for developers. Last November, the City Council approved the Water Street Redevelopment Area plan after a presentation by staff about the benefits of consolidating city ownership of the area, then preparing it for redevelopment.
Part of that presentation addressed the question, “Why continue to invest (in that area)?” Reasons included removing risks for developers and reducing unknowns. Developers will know the land can be acquired, know its environmental condition, have clear land to build on and with a public river walk as an amenity.
In total, clearing the Water Street Redevelopment Area and building a new riverfront is about a $6.5 million project, the majority of it funded by a tax-increment district and bonding. Also helping to fund the work are a $300,000 state grant, $500,000 federal grant and $220,000 from the intergovernmental revenue stream.
The return on the total investment is projected to come from such benefits as: the creation of new property taxes through development; having new residents shopping in the community; additional jobs from the cleanup and construction; the creation of a new neighborhood; and improved Root River environmental conditions.
The RDA has issued a request for qualifications for a team (engineering, planning, design and market study) to work on the overall Water Street Area development plan and to draw up construction plans for the river walk. City Development Director Amy Connolly said the RDA will be hiring that team this month, and those plans should be finished by next January. “We would do construction of the river walk and any improvements to the seawall if necessary in 2019,” she said.
Connolly and City Administrator Jim Palenick, in a joint statement released late Friday, elaborated on what the latest developments in the riverfront project mean: RDA’s progress toward making the site developable by the private sector begins now. The city looks forward to having a clear view to the Root River and believe that clearing the site of buildings and completing the environmental remediation makes the size and scope of redevelopment clearer to the development community and more likely to progress. And the RDA and city staff are doing everything they can to position the city to take advantage of Foxconn housing development market improvements. “We believe that a riverfront redevelopment is timely given the interest in housing development,” Palenick and Connolly said.
“I have been advocating for sustainable, inclusive waterfront redevelopment on the Root since 2005. This marks the first tangible progress toward that goal. It is an important milestone.” Racine Mayor Cory Mason

MICHAEL BURKE mick.burke@journaltimes.com

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