This is not your father’s Kenosha. And it certainly isn’t your grandfather’s Kenosha.
As was made evident at the Dec. 5 Plan Commission meeting, the city is changing. The automaking days are barely visible in the rearview mirror. The lakefront site that once housed a hulking manufacturing plant now sports condos, shops and museums.
That was a drastic change some 30 years ago. Now, the city is on cusp of another drastic change.
Mayor John Antaramian’s Downtown Vision Plan is starting to take root. A big part of the plan — more housing in the downtown area — is now closer to reality as plans for the Brindisi Towers development advance.
While HarborPark and the Fifth Avenue Lofts were a start to getting more people living in the downtown area, Brindisi promises to be a game-changer.
The $79.5 million project at 52nd Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues, featuring an 11-story apartment structure on the north, 10-story condo building on the south and a fourth-floor grass terrace between the two towers, will dramatically alter the lakefront.
It’s high-end housing, but developer ARD Inc. of Milwaukee wouldn’t be proposing the project if it didn’t think there was a bright future.
“If you look at some of the studies they’ve conducted in Kenosha County, there is a huge void in mid- to upper-end residential housing,” said ARD president Joseph Chrnelich said. “The numbers we see are huge for what is needed over the next 10 years. This (project) just scratches that need.”
He’s right. The project promises to be the spark that will ignite more housing development in the downtown area — not just high-end housing, but other more affordable options as well. And that’s a good thing.
The renaissance of downtown Kenosha has seen its fits and starts; many remember the ill-fated pedestrian mall concept that never bore fruit, and there are still plenty of empty buildings and storefronts.
But more people living downtown means more demand for nearby goods and services. The restaurants and shops that are downtown now will benefit, and more businesses will follow — possibly even a grocery store, something many have clamored for.
Antaramian’s plan is a good one, and developments like Brindisi Towers are steps along the path to a new, 21st century Kenosha that will only enhance our spot on Lake Michigan.
“This isn’t the Kenosha I moved into in 1967,” Charles Bradley, a member of the city’s Plan Commission, said on Dec. 5. “We are changing from a small industrial town to a city of opportunity and growth. We have to be realistic. Kenosha is not going to remain the same. Not everyone is going to like it, but it’s the reality.”
It’s a reality that Kenoshans should embrace.