Reincarnation

    Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:33 pm

    Downtown Kenosha has experienced an influx of new condominium buildings, apartments, retail shops and restaurants in recent years, greatly changing the appearance and the makeup of the area.
    However, national retailers have been absent from downtown Kenosha’s mix.
    Ruth Granger, in her role of overseeing the redevelopment of the tallest building in downtown Kenosha, the eight-story, 80,000-square-foot former Kenosha National Bank building at 625 57th St., wants to change that.
    Granger, who spent 14 years as the coordinator of Kenosha’s Lakeshore Improvement District, which encompasses the downtown area, was hired to manage the building in September. Her duties include overseeing not only the redevelopment of the building, but also filling it with businesses and retail stores.
    Paul McDonouth, president of Clovis Point, which owns the building, said Granger’s commitment to downtown Kenosha, mixed with her experience in promoting the area, made her the perfect person to head up the development.
    "She bleeds downtown Kenosha," McDonouth said. "It’s a passion for her."
    Clovis Point purchased the building nearly three years ago. McDonouth said the firm was attracted to the building’s historical significance, the attached parking garage with a third-floor walkway and the location in Kenosha’s downtown.
    Clovis Point also owns several other buildings in downtown Kenosha, Granger said.
    "For the last few years, we’ve been working to invest and try to revitalize Kenosha," McDonouth said. "The building has got a lot of history to it, and it’s got the attached parking garage. And we thought it was worth taking on."
    Although McDonouth’s company purchased the former bank building and is funding the $350,000, four-floor first phase of the revitalization, he said Granger is the driving force behind the project.
    "It’s really been her idea, and she’s focusing on it," McDonouth said. "She’s trying to reach out and go after what we can."
    The 78-year-old building has been vacant for three years. Initial plans called for it to be redeveloped with moderate remodeling, but a water pipe burst during the winter of 2004 changed those plans.
    Workers are gutting the entire building, and some have begun refurbishing the first, third, fifth and sixth floors. Further refurbishing will be done after the first four floors are leased, Granger said.
    Granger said the first phase of redevelopment should be completed in April, when she’s hoping to hold an open house for some of the national retailers she’s contacted.
    The plan is to attract 11 retailers and 11 office tenants to the 80,000 square feet of space in the building. Granger would like to get a restaurant on the top floor. The redeveloped building will be named the Shops on 7th, she said.
    Granger’s enthusiasm for the project is obvious when she’s walking through some of the spaces, whether she’s looking at the view of Kenosha’s harbor and downtown from the eighth floor or at the bank vault in the building’s basement.
    "This community is ready for national retailers," she said, pointing to the increasing amount of housing available in the downtown harbor area. "I am so enthusiastic for this project. We’re hoping that 18 months from now, we’ll be at full occupancy."
    Her timing might be right. Downtown Kenosha is poised to have a significant addition to its existing condo population.
    It already has a 250-unit condo development at Harbor Park in the downtown area. A 34-unit, nine-floor building proposed for the corner of 57th Street and 4th Avenue would feature 4,500 square feet of retail space on its first floor and parking on the second floor, with condo units on the third through ninth floors.
    Another nine-story condo development has been proposed at the former Keno Auto Body site, but that project is in the conceptual phases.
    McDonouth said attracting national retailers is the next logical step for the city to add to the growing population in the downtown area. He pointed to downtown revitalization projects in other cities, such as Milwaukee, where national retailers have played a large role in retail revitalization.
    "Look at what’s happening in most downtown revitalizations, and you’ll see Starbucks, The Gap and Barnes & Noble," McDonouth said.
    February 4, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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