Downtown vision.jpg

This artist’s rendering shows the vision for downtown, with the Municipal Building replaced by a park (G), with a performing arts center (F) at the west end. The vision also includes various high-rise mixed-use buildings.

A potential $400M plan to reshape the downtown lakefront received overwhelming support from the city Plan Commission last week.

The commission moved forward on a new Tax Incremental Financing District (No. 27), slated at the epicenter of the Downtown Vision Project from 52nd Street and Sheridan Road to the corner of 55th Street and Sixth Avenue. The TID also includes the corner of 56th Street and Sheridan Road, the site targeted for construction of a new city hall and a public parking garage.

The TID still needs approval from the Common Council on Aug. 19.

City staff has operated for decades out of the obsolete Municipal Building, 625 52nd St. Plans are in place to tear down the building and replace it with a sprawling public park and performing arts center.

One of three, new downtown parking structures is slated at the corner of 52nd Street and Sheridan Road, with luxury, high-rise condominiums planned along 54th Street from Eighth Avenue to Fifth Avenue.

The project could include over 1,000 residential units, approximately 2½ times the amount of housing constructed in HarborPark.

Former alderman John Fox, who was involved in the project’s initial planning, addressed the commission during a public hearing Thursday.

“The last 25 years of development has changed the face of our lakefront to make it the jewel it is,” Fox said. “This is the diamond on top of the ring we already have. I’m hoping we will continue to move forward with this. I can’t wait to see what this place is going to look like in 10 years.”

City Plan commissioner Charles Bradley brought up the possibility of selling the Municipal Building to a private investor instead of tearing it down. Mayor John Antaramian reinforced the importance of creating as much recreational, public space on the lakefront as possible.

“Part of what we’ve been looking at is how we get the greatest value for this area,” Antaramian said. “There is a huge number of activities going on and space is becoming more of a problem in the downtown area for recreational activities. By leaving this area open, we create more value around us.

“The properties would be built in a U-shape concept (around the park) and all of them would have views of the lake. The value to the city will increase dramatically and we solve our recreational issues.”

Commissioner Lydia Spottswood also spoke in favor of creating additional green space.

“I completely support this being a park,” Spottswood said. “The value would be substantially greater than (selling it). It would create a lovely, natural bridge between the downtown area and the parcel to the north. This is a move to the hoop.”

The city is working with a developer on the Downtown Vision Project and is expected to sign a contract shortly, according to Zohrab Khaligian, a redevelopment specialist with the city’s Department of Community Development and Inspections.

Once that happens, the city will release the name of the developer and detailed plans moving forward.

The building located on the site of the proposed, new city hall is slated to be torn down before the end of the year. The property housed the original Kenosha Police Department and most recently the Kenosha Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and the Kenosha Public Library’s Administration and Support Center.

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