RACINE — The former Porters of Racine’s owners Thursday announced a $5.5 million redevelopment of the building into 37 apartments and seven ground-floor retail spaces.
The renovated structure at 301 Sixth St. will be named the Porters of Racine Building, said developer Micah Waters who co-owns the property with his uncle Bob Waters. The name refers to the high-end furniture store that lasted 152 years before closing about two years ago.
During its final months, Micah Waters, an architect, and his firm, Signature Architecture — also at 301 Sixth St. — began working on a reuse plan for the 80,000-square-foot structure that started as nine different buildings.
It was tied together in 1939 in the art deco style which the new design maintains and modernizes.
“The project is inspired by the past but designed for the present,” Micah Waters stated in a news release.
In redeveloping the Porters building, the Waters had several advantages that slashed the outside financing needed. They own the property, they did all of their own architectural work, and they will be the general contractor. Bank financing comprises less than 40 percent of the total, Micah Waters said.
City officials propose creating a tax increment district for the three-story building as the last, critical piece of financing.
With the apartments occupied, the project could even exist without retail tenants, Micah Waters said. But the developers expect the apartments to help attract tenants to the seven storefronts that will face Sixth Street.
The developers will immediately start seeking tenants for the shops that should be available in about a year, Micah Waters said during a press conference at Racine City Hall, 730 Washington Ave. “We have the ability to be selective with the retail tenants,” he added.
Mayor John Dickert said the Porters of Racine Building will be a Downtown “anchor facility.”
Both he and Micah Waters said the developers will hire local companies for the construction. “I applaud Micah and Bob Waters for this commitment to their hometown,” Dickert stated.
The Porters building apartment rents — all market rate, not subsidized — will range from $500 to $995 monthly and in size from 480-1,550 square feet. “We were able to do this with nothing over $1,000,” Micah Waters said.
The developers did extensive market research, he said. “Everything indicates there’s a strong demand (Downtown) for market rate apartments.”
Some Porters apartments will face into interior courtyards providing light and ventilation, Micah Waters said. And Porters has its own 50-spot parking lot.
Construction will begin this spring and take about 18 to 24 months, Micah Waters said. However, the first 10 apartments should be available eight months after construction starts.
There are no retail tenant prospects yet, but he said targets would include a specialty restaurant, convenience store, law offices and perhaps a hair salon or FedEx store.
Retail rents will range from $510 to $1,830 monthly, averaging $1 to $1.25 per square foot, Micah Waters said. The shops will be served by common facilities behind them such as bathrooms, so all of each store will be usable shop space.
City Development Director Brian O’Connell explained the tax increment district will freeze taxes on the property at the current level, which the owners will continue paying.
New taxes created by the future improvements will be plowed directly back into the project as added financing, for an estimated 20 years and total of about $1.1 million.
Downtown Racine Corp. Executive Director Devin Sutherland called the Porters plan a “first-class redevelopment.”
“I think it’s a perfect mix for Sixth Street and all of Downtown.”