Like a seedling emerging from the ground, visions of the future have emerged from the corridors of City Hall in regards to developments for several of Kenosha’s dormant but most prominent vacant parcels.
Last week, a plan for a major upgrading of the Downtown district received the thumbs up from two city committees. The development agreement between the city and New Kenosha LLC is scheduled to go before the City Council tonight.
Construction of the eight-block redevelopment initiative is planned to unfold in four phases over the next eight to 10 years. The first two phases call for high-rise luxury apartments and condominiums, a new City Hall, a park, a performing arts center and a high-end hotel. The project’s latter phases envision the development of mixed residential and retail plans contingent on market conditions.
To facilitate the project, the city would provide a $47.4 million grant to New Kenosha LLC, the developers, to construct needed improvements. The development grant is city-bonded, tax-increment finance funded and would be used to reimburse the developer for infrastructure and construction.
Meanwhile, Mayor John Antaramian told the Kenosha News last week that the SmithGroup, an integrated design and engineering firm, is being commissioned to create a master plan for the Kenosha Innovation Neighborhood at the former Chrysler Engine Plant site, a $1 billion project.
The plan for the 107-acre swath of land east of 30th Avenue between 52nd and 60th streets is a development that would foster neighborhood opportunities in education, workforce training, entrepreneurial development and job placement, according to Antaramian. It would focus on connecting residents to opportunities in high-growth digital fields, as well as science, technology and math occupations.
The city’s contract with SmithGroup is in the process of being finalized, with consultants expected to start work on the master plan process Jan. 1, according to Ed St. Peter, the longtime city official who is serving as project manager for the plan. The master plan will define land use and zoning and include transportation plans as well and the scope of residential housing and commercial buildings for the parcel.
A first step to that plan, which we have to say on first blush sounds perhaps a bit too ambitious, is to solicit feedback from neighborhood residents, who are for the most part working class to low-income.
Mayor Antaramian says there has been success with a similar project in St. Louis. We anxiously await to see what comes of this concept, which of course would be years to fruition. While we are skeptical how developers and city development staff would attract research and tech-based firms to the inner city when so much regional commercial and tech business has gravitated to the I-94 corridor, if such a project did materialize it could bring an infusion to life to an area that badly needs an upgrade. Ideally, such a project could help revitalize the tired and underutilized 52nd and 60th street commercial corridors.
The Downtown project is more within grasp as a strong foundation of recent residential development already is in place. The Brindisi Tower plan for a high-rise of upscale apartments would help balance the type of residential properties Downtown and would bring an infusion of people to the area further bolstering an already flourishing restaurant and bar scene and hopefully attracting badly needed retail business to the Downtown.
So, too, would the proposed performing arts center.
The plans for Downtown and the Chrysler site are welcome and complement proposals recently presented to rebuild the city’s Uptown area.
The goal now for the mayor and city leaders is how to make all these plans a reality. Patience is a virtue, but this healing city is anxious for results.