RACINE — A pedestrian bridge across Root River and a “marsupial” pedestrian bridge beneath Sixth Street are among the novel ideas currently sprouting from the Root River revitalization plan, RootWorks.
The Root River Council’s latest proposals, which will be aired today for public comment, involve the area roughly bordered by Mound Avenue on the northwest, Marquette Street on the east and Sixth Street on the south. The Council will present them starting at 5 p.m. today, with an open house until 7 p.m., at 524 Monument Square, suite 100.
RootWorks is a plan, adopted by the City Council, to revitalize Racine’s urban river corridor. The strategies are designed to create a “sense of place” in the area, stimulate economic growth, allow for public access and interaction, and improve water quality.
“We’re beginning to break down small, implementable projects that would be what I would call low-hanging fruit,” Council Outreach Coordinator Ben Lehner said, while advancing the goal of public access and interaction. The hope is to draw people into the area, thereby spawning future amenities and development.
The nonprofit Council elected to start with the Mound Avenue area because it has been brought up so often in public meetings, Lehner said. In that stretch the Root River Pathway, going toward Downtown, stops being a paved bicycle path and becomes merely a city street with no bike lane.
Proposed improvements for the area that will be presented today include:
• A marsupial bridge for pedestrians and bicyclists beneath the Sixth Street bridge where it heads toward the Downtown area from the west. “That’s very much in tune with the rest of the plan, to use existing assets — in this case the Sixth Street bridge,” Lehner said.
Also, it would enter Downtown at the same grade as the street, another advantage, he said. And the more connections to the area, the better for future businesses, he said.
• A pedestrian bridge from Mound Avenue to Water Street. The hope is to use an existing bridge once owned by Western Printing Co.
• Painting and designating the street along Mound Avenue as a “bike boulevard” that signals to drivers to slow down and watch for bicyclists. That would be a cheap way to improve safety for cyclists and one that works in other cities, Lehner said.
• A scenic overlook above the river across the street from Next Generation Now, 1220 Mound Ave. Not only is the river difficult to get to along that stretch, but “people don’t know it’s there,” said state Rep. Cory Mason, a Council board member.
An overlook would also help give the urban river corridor an identity as such, he said.
• An “outdoor classroom” directly across Mound Avenue from 21st Century Preparatory School, also at 1220 Mound Ave. It would take advantage of a natural amphitheater on the hillside, Mason said.
• Stormwater-control improvements where Water Street ends at the river on the west. Currently there is nothing to prevent contaminated runoff from pouring into the river there.
The plan’s latest proposals on view today also include a recreation-related business and coffee shop/cafe along Mound Avenue near the 21st Century Preparatory School.