Historic Downtown building, Racine’s first YMCA, for sale

2010-10-21T06:33:00Z 2013-12-18T11:39:54Z Historic Downtown building, Racine’s first YMCA, for saleMICHAEL BURKE mburke@journaltimes.com Journal Times

RACINE - Just one Downtown building has three floors, five storefronts, great architecture and a ballroom - and it's for sale.

The former Red Cross Drug Store building at 314-324 Sixth St. may represent opportunity for further Downtown development and activity. Its only tenants are the 6th Street Theater and Racine Arts Council.

"I think it's one of our best pieces of architecture," Downtown Racine Corp. Executive Director Devin Sutherland said Wednesday. "It's certainly an underutilized piece."

The building was listed for $349,000 two months ago by owner Emily Hill of Wind Point. Hill is owner of E.J. Hill & Co., a publishing business, and is a partner in Hill & Hill Investments.

She recently helped celebrate the 30th anniversary of Wisconsin Women Entrepreneurs, an area non-profit business association, which she cofounded in 1980.

"The owner is at the point where she just doesn't want to maintain it any longer," property manager Barbara Miller said about putting the building on the market.

Sutherland observed, "Despite it being underutilized, (Hill) has taken care of it. Not all property owners do that. It ought to be a real attraction to somebody."

The unique building is one of Downtown's larger properties, with three floors, approximately 24,000 square feet and five storefronts; the theater occupies two of them. That leaves two storefronts currently empty.

The structure, variously referred to as the Red Cross Drug Store Building or the Old Stone Building, has a rich history. Before it was constructed as Racine's first YMCA, the 1,200-seat Blake Opera House and Hotel was built on the site in 1882.

Just two years later, disaster struck: A fire destroyed the building and killed three actors who were trapped backstage, according to a historical research paper done for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's School of Architecture and Urban Planning.

In 1886 the Racine YMCA built its first quarters on the same site, a Cream City brick building trimmed with red sandstone. It was designed by local architect James Gilbert Chandler who designed other notable Racine structures including the Shoop Building, 222 Main St.

Sutherland said Hill has supported various start-up businesses in the Red Cross building.

Hill has also put the parking lot at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and College Avenue on the market. The 29-vehicle lot is listed for sale at $95,900.

Shorewood Realtors holds the listings on both properties.

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