Nine-block, $450 million development planned in downtown Kenosha

A rendering provides a snap shot of what part of a nine-block redevelopment of downtown Kenosha's Harborside area might look like. (Rendering courtesy of SCB)

Last updated on May 16th, 2023 at 11:22 am

Milwaukee-based development firm Cobalt Partners, LLC and Fond du Lac-based construction firm C.D. Smith Construction, Inc. are proposing a nine-block, $450 million development project for downtown Kenosha, that would result in the construction of more than 1,000 apartments and condos, mixed-use retail spaces, a market hall, and at least two office buildings.

Under a development agreement to be reviewed Thursday by the city’s Plan Commission, Cobalt and C.D. Smith would partner to transform roughly 14 acres of the city’s Harborside area bordered by Sheridan Road on the west, 52nd Street on the north, 56th Street on the south and 5th Avenue on the east.

Most of that area is currently comprised of vacant parcels of land, including large parcels at 54th Street and 6th Avenue, and 54th Street and 8th Avenue, but Tim Casey, Kenosha’s director of city development, confirmed Wednesday that about five buildings – all owned by the city or the developers – would be razed to make way for the full development, including Kenosha’s municipal building.

“The vast majority of the nine blocks are vacant, and all of the land is either city-owned or owned by the developer, or under the developer’s control,” Casey said. “We’ve razed three buildings (in the development area) this year.”

Those buildings and vacant parcels would be replaced with 1,100 apartments and condominiums spread across several mid-rise buildings and one larger tower. Condominiums would be developed on the easternmost block to complement the existing Harbor Park district, a press release states. The development proposal includes plans is for the city to work with the developers to develop a new municipal office building for the city, so that it can free up the current city hall site for the residential tower and mixed-use development.

A central park and laneway would connect the new residential buildings with a market hall, food kiosk, and retail space.

Plans also call for a full-service hotel on Sheridan Road along with two office buildings, as well as ample green space, green roofs, and the use of solar panels in building construction.

Construction could start in late fall of this year, with the development being completed in phases over a seven-to-10-year time frame. Increment from an existing tax increment financing district would be used to fund needed public improvements, parking, and park space.

The city is in discussions with veterans organizations to create a new Veterans Memorial Park and expand the current park on the site.

Long-term vision

The city first began seeking developers to transform the area in 2019, Casey said. When an agreement with a developer selected as part of a request for proposals process didn’t pan out, Cobalt Partners and C.D. Smith, who had responded to the RFP process back in 2019, began working with the city.

“We have been working on this for about a year and a half,” Casey said.

The idea, explained Mayor John Antaramian, is to craft “a vibrant mixed-use district taking advantage of the lakefront, existing attractions and amenities, as well as multi-modal transit access including Metra train service from Chicago.”

“The city has been planning for the next generation of downtown development for a number of years,” Antaramian said. “The development team brings a fresh perspective to Kenosha, backed by significant experience in public/private partnerships throughout Wisconsin and in other states.”

Scott Yauck, president of Cobalt Partners, said his firm, which has transformed whole sections of Greenfield, “has been impressed with the strong economic growth in Kenosha for many years.”

“Kenosha’s lakefront is beautiful, and the downtown has many attractions, restaurants, and shopping,” Yauck said. “We are confident in the market for high quality multi-family (development) with fantastic views and within walking distance to all the downtown and lakefront have to offer.”

Mike Krolczyk, senior vice president of C. D. Smith, noted that the company has worked on large scale public/private partnerships in the Milwaukee, La Crosse, Madison, and Appleton areas, and sees significant potential in Kenosha for the “downtown to really blossom.”

The developers worked with SCB architects on the conceptual master plan and preliminary building designs. The Chicago-based firm designed the SEVENTY7 apartment building in downtown, and the Hines apartment tower under construction in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward.

The Kenosha Common Council could consider the development agreement as early as Monday.

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Cara covers commercial and residential real estate. She has an extensive background in local government reporting and hopes to use her experience writing about both urban and rural redevelopment to better inform readers. Cara lives in Waukesha with her husband, a teenager, a toddler, a dog named Neutron, a bird named Potter, and a lizard named Peyoye. She loves music, food, and comedy, but not necessarily in that order.

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