RACINE — A Davenport, Iowa, developer plans to transform a Downtown riverfront area called Machinery Row with a commercial-residential project that will start at $65 million.
Financial District Properties has options to buy a 20-acre swath of riverfront land and undertake a redevelopment it is calling Machinery Row, company executives and City and County officials said Tuesday.
Mayor John Dickert called it the largest redevelopment project in Racine’s history.
The area, north of Water Street and east of Marquette Street, encompasses all of Azarian Marina, 726 Water St., and two large former industrial buildings constructed by J.I. Case Co. between 1908 and 1915. They were later sold to Western Printing and now have two different owners.
FDP was only going to redevelop Machinery Row if it had all three parcels.
Company Chief Financial and Operating Officer Bryce Henderson said the $65 million estimate includes just the site improvements and redeveloping the first building, the larger one.
The project will open access to that entire stretch of riverfront to the public for the first time in about a century, Dickert noted. Azarian Marina will cease to exist.
Executives and said the project is at the conceptual stage with many details yet to be fleshed out.
However, FDP is already preleasing commercial space in the larger of the two buildings and hopes to secure anchor tenants within 30 to 45 days, said Project Manager Jim Bowman of C3 Consultants in Moline, Ill.
FDP expects to start renovating the first building later this year and make occupancy available by winter or spring 2016, Henderson said.
Construction on the second building would wait until the first one is completed.
The larger building, which will be converted to commercial and residential uses in the project’s first phase, is a three-story, 500,000-square-foot structure.
It is now covered by a gray, asbestos-containing material that replaced the original exterior walls. That covering will be removed, and the structure will then be re-covered with an exterior that “pays homage” to the original appearance, FDP founder and managing owner Rodney Blackwell said.
Slightly more than 100 loft apartments are envisioned in the building. FDP says commercial tenants might include a grocery store, restaurant, day care center and high-tech firms.
“It will be mixed use and a destination,” Henderson said. “We don’t want it to be an apartment complex that will stand on its own.”
River corridor plan
FDP’s proposal for Machinery Row conforms with the Root River Corridor Redevelopment Plan called RootWorks. The City adopted it in 2012.
“We built the plan, and now we’re working the plan,” Dickert said. “It’s not sitting on a shelf.”
State Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine is a founding member of the group that formed that plan, starting in 2005. “After nine years of planning and discussion, I’m thrilled to see site control announced on Machinery Row for the first big project of the RootWorks plan,” he stated.
“The Mayor, County Executive (Jim Ladwig) and I have seen firsthand the quality of (Blackwell’s) and FDP’s accomplishments and the track record of their success.”
Root River Council Chairman Monte Osterman said, “How much more excited could we be? We’re starting to see the fruits of so many years of labor, and I can’t say enough about all the people who have been partners along the way.”
During a press conference Tuesday at Azarian Marina, CNH Industrial executive Brad Crews said developing Machinery Row will “enhance the work life of our employees” and help CNH recruit employees. “It will be a wonderful extension of our campus,” he said.
“An awful lot of hard work and sacrifice got us here today,” Ladwig stated, “but make no mistake, there is much more heavy lifting yet to come.
About Financial District Properties
Davenport, Iowa-based FDP has developed more than 100 projects, according to its founder and managing owner, Rodney Blackwell.
According to company literature, FDP develops, manages and operates income-producing real estate. Its investments are diverse and include multifamily, office and retail developments.
FDP has a history of working in partnership with local governments to expand city development efforts and contribute to a municipality’s long-term economic plans
FDP has focused on adaptive reuse historic development including the recent rehabilitation of the Wells Fargo Bank building in Davenport and the Union Arcade building, also in Davenport, which is now under construction.
A joint news release issued Tuesday by the City and developers said FDP is known for “successfully developing complicated and catalytic urban redevelopment projects” through community partnerships and using “complex structured financing solutions.”
Some other major Downtown redevelopments and their costs when built:
- Johnson Building, 555 Main St. — $23 million
- The Harbor at State and Main building, 141 Main St. — $19.7 million
- Mitchell Wagon Factory loft apartments, 815 Eight St. — $14 million
Historic tax credits
FDP executives said the company is currently in the development phases of:
- Programming — defining the market and property needs, desires, image and relationships.
- Schematic design — developing conceptual sketches, physical dimensions, visual materials and preliminary interior and exterior elements.
- Preleasing key anchor tenants: “The next 90 days will be very exciting,” Blackwell predicted.
FDP executives said their redevelopment will take advantage of Wisconsin’s new law granting tax credits for redeveloping historic buildings. Mason said the buildings will qualify for a 20 percent tax credit for construction costs and a 10 percent federal tax credit.
The project will also involve creating a tax increment district there and take advantage of other available government programs, Dickert said.
Blackwell said he was completely confident FDP can gather the additional investment capital needed.