RACINE — The city has formally ended its agreement with General Capital Group to redevelop the former Case Plow Works building and instead will have the four-story structure razed next year.
The blocky building at 615 Marquette St. was one of those included in Tuesday evening’s decision by the Redevelopment Authority of Racine and City Council’s Committee of the Whole to clear 27 acres of Downtown-area and riverfront land next year to prepare those areas for new development.
The area includes what was to have been the Machinery Row redevelopment of two former J.I. Case Co. buildings between Water Street and the River.
It also includes the 615 and 526 Marquette St. buildings. The former lies immediately south of the would-be Machinery Row project, across Water Street. In recent years the building had been the location of the Factory of Fear Halloween attraction. The latter structure — another former Case Plow Works building — lies immediately west, along the west side of Marquette Street.
Including the 169,000-square-foot former Plow Works, a structure from about the turn of last century, in next year’s massive demolition required the RDA and General Capital of Fox Point to formally end their partnership on the possible redevelopment of that property.
The company had been considering redeveloping that building into housing with some additional retail to be built on the site, a project initially estimated at $18.4 million. Had General Capital gone forward with its redevelopment plans, it would have paid the city $750,000 for the Plow Works building.
Tax credits lacking
In his letter requesting the termination of General Capital’s purchase option and predevelopment agreement with the city, Sig Strautmanis, one of the company’s owners, wrote, “Based on initial research conducted by Heritage Research Ltd. As well as the recent uncertainty of state historic tax credits, we do not believe we can secure historic tax credits. Further, without them, the project is unlikely to secure an allocation of affordable housing tax credits. Without these sources of funds, the project is simply infeasible.”
City Development Director Amy Connolly said the State Historic Preservation Office had rejected the application for historic preservation tax credits and did not think it would qualify for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. She said the building had apparently been used mostly as a warehouse, and there was no evidence found of any patents having originated there. Nor is it very architecturally interesting.
“We don’t believe any developer can come in and save the building without some form of tax credits,” Connolly said.
The RDA had allocated about $86,500 in intergovernmental revenue funds toward the various studies required in the due-diligence phase before the Case Plow Works building could be redeveloped. The amount actually spent was $17,127.
Despite the aborting of that potential project, there is reason to believe General Capital could do a different development project in Racine. “We have nothing but great respect for General Capital,” Connolly said.
And Strautmanis wrote in his letter to the RDA, “There was a sincere effort made by all parties to figure this out with alternative models and scenarios.
“We still have a sincere desire to work with the city and continue the positive relationship we have started. We look forward to working with you again in the very near future.”