As developers look to the greenfields of western Racine County and lands along the I-94 corridor, including those in the new village of Mount Pleasant, redevelopers are looking to the brownfields of eastern Racine County for some major initiatives.
The downtown renaissance continues in Burlington and in Racine, with Burlington farther along on its renewal, including a significant investment in infrastructure, says Gordan Kacala, executive director of the Racine County Economic Development Corp.
Burlington has invested heavily in its riverfront project and in street, sewer and water infrastructure, renewing its downtown and, at the same time, improving traffic flow through the community and laying the groundwork for new projects. Those will include development of a Chancery restaurant on a brownfield. Other redevelopments on the horizon are the Bel-Mur Enterprises factory property and an old gas power plant.
Congress last year approved a $225,000 grant to help clean up the Bel-Mur complex. Burlington intends to match federal funds and has advanced plans for housing on the property, which is near downtown.
The Burlington upgrades are part of an overall development of the Highway 36 corridor through Racine County, notes Kacala. "The Highway 36 corridor is a huge growth area," he says.
Among that development is a Wal-Mart Super Center, which opened along Highway 36 on Burlington’s north side in January, providing 350 jobs. It’s the second Super Center for Racine County, the other one being in Mount Pleasant. A 31-acre site adjacent to the Burlington Wal-Mart has been tabbed for residential development.
Meanwhile, redevelopment continues in downtown Racine, "with some major brownfields initiatives on the agenda" for this year, Kacala notes. Those projects include the 14-acre Jacobsen-Textron site on the city’s south side — a brownfield which will be cleaned up with the help of grants. Demolition of the 480,000-square-foot building is about to take place, which will be followed by soil remediation and development into a new business park or multiple parks.
Racine also is seeking proposals for the former Walker Manufacturing plant on the lake. The site could become residential. Roadwork and streetscaping in downtown Racine were completed last year. The downtown is expected to see continued new investment by businesses and developers.
Elsewhere, Mount Pleasant’s incorporation as a village is expected to lead to more development of that former township surrounding Sturtevant with, eventually, more than 2,000 acres opened for development.
Mount Pleasant officials expect the population bordering Racine could double to 40,000 within the next 10 years and that the community will become a southeastern Wisconsin development hotbed.
That development will be fostered by the agreement extending sewer and water service west from Racine to I-94, which is on Mount Pleasant’s western border.
Village officials see major development at the I-94 interchanges with highways 20, 11 and KR, which is the Racine-Kenosha border.
The deal extending sewer services west will benefit Racine, which is earmarking some of the sewer service revenues for redevelopment of blighted areas.
Sturtevant will see continued development of MLG Commercial’s The Renaissance business park, with extension of Renaissance Boulevard opening more land in the 390-acre park accessible for development.
Development proposals for The Renaissance this year include two automobile dealerships, which would be the park’s first retail operations.
In general, Kacala sees a "pretty good year" for Racine County in 2004. While there weren’t a lot of job-producing projects during the economic slowdown, the county held its own, despite its reliance on manufacturing. Nearly a third of its employment is in manufacturing, which, nationally, took a heavy hit during the recession. "We even gained 200 jobs when the state lost 15,000," Kacala said.
With the economy on the upswing, development proposals have picked up dramatically, he adds.
Feb. 6, 2004 Small Business Times, Milwaukee