The Kenosha City Council has unanimously approved an application seeking Community Development Investment Grant funds from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation for the Barden’s department store building project.

The city will be requesting $250,000 from WEDC to aid Witico Development Corp. — which purchased the building from the city for $1 — in covering the costs of the $3.5 million renovation project.

According to the project description on the city’s application to the WEDC, the city will be completing utility/infrastructure upgrades at the 0.25-acre property as part of its agreement with Witico, at a cost of about $146,000, according to cost estimates provided by the city.

The city states in its draft application that the renovation of the building will provide a “significant addition to the tax base.” The development will also add approximately 22 full-time positions to downtown Kenosha, with over 25 percent of the jobs requiring higher than a high school education that “will result in those employees receiving specialty job training, 401k matching and health care reimbursement.”

The Barden’s building is also being looked at by the city as a point to spur more development and interest in the downtown in line with the city’s downtown vision and strategic development plan.

According to documents in the city’s application, the former Barden’s building is one of 12 vacant buildings and parcels identified in the city’s 2012 downtown strategic plan “as a catalyst site that has the best potential for generating revitalization momentum in downtown Kenosha,” the application states.

Other buildings

Other buildings included in the plan were: the Alford Building, which the city has purchased and is marketing for reuse; the former Heritage House building, which is now the 80-room Stella boutique hotel that will open April 1; and the former Garb’s building property that the city bought and razed, which the city is currently negotiating an agreement with a private owner who proposes to contrast a historically-compatible two-story building and occupy a portion of the commercial first floor and residential second floor.

The current plan is to use the Barden store property as a connector from the retail main street downtown to the Stella Hotel.

Under the city’s agreement with Witico, the Barden’s property project must commence construction no later than Oct. 1, and Witico must complete the project by July 1, 2021.

The city has also acquired four nearby “contiguous surface parking lots and will construct a 300 to 400 space public parking lot to serve all of the new downtown development,” according to the application.