RACINE — If you cross the Sixth Street bridge these days between Racine Street and South Memorial Drive, you can see that a galvanized metal shell has been partially torn off a three-story brick building next to the bridge.
It’s the start of a multibuilding apartment development called Edge of the River that is to span both sides of the Sixth Street Bridge. Inspired Real Estate Developers say their approximately $55 million project will create about 335 new market-rate housing units.
That’s something eastern Racine County will desperately need as construction on the Foxconn Technology Group campus in Mount Pleasant starts gearing up. An effort is underway to encourage the construction of new housing in Racine County, in an effort to lure as many future Foxconn employees as possible.
Inspired Real Estate was already in the game. In January it announced plans to redevelop the 1230 Sixth St. building — originally a tannery and most recently the Gospel Lighthouse church — into about 53 housing units, a project called Tannery at the Edge of the River. Company co-owner Dona Myers said that three-story building is to be extended upward to four stories.
It is to include 15 “micro-apartments,” units of 420 to 450 square feet, but with appliances and finishings every bit as nice as the largest apartments will have, Myers said.
Apartment sizes are planned to range up to two bedrooms and 2½ bathrooms. Seven of those two-bedroom apartments are planned to be two-floor units.
Myers said monthly rents are projected to start below $800 for the micro-apartments and range into the higher $2,000s for the largest Tannery apartments.
New housing construction
From the start, Inspired was also considering constructing from the ground up another apartment building on that 3.8-acre property.
But now, about six months later, with preparatory work underway on the former tannery, the developers’ plans have mushroomed. That second building is now definitely in the plan and is to connect with the old tannery, Myers said Sunday. It will have five stories along Racine Street, with a bump-out to a sixth story on the north end and two stories of in-building parking.
Together, the existing and new, connected portion are projected to have 129 apartments that Myers expects to be finished well before the end of 2019.
The project calls for preserving five large cottonwood trees along the river in a park area, as well as an old boat launch as a tenant amenity.
In addition to the 129 apartments described above, Myers said Inspired is buying another 94 feet immediately north of the existing property. On the additional land, Inspired plans to construct a building of at least five stories and about 180 apartment units for a total on the entire property of 309 units.
And that’s just on the north side of the bridge.
Both sides now
Inspired’s model is to build housing and then sell it — either upon completion or when it reaches a certain occupancy percentage, according to the buyer’s wishes. Myers said Inspired has a joint venture partner in the Edge of the River, private investors who want to own housing.
“There are so many people coming in internationally and everything else,” Myers said, “who want finished doors (living units), and there simply aren’t any for sale … We’re really trying to count on that situation going forward, because we hear it almost every single week.”
She expects many of the apartments Inspired is building to be preleased, perhaps several months before completion.
At some point, the interest of Myers and her business partner, Chuck Hanka spread to the riverfront area south of the Sixth Street bridge, as well as north. She said they now have a contract to buy the former Hoffman Furniture building at 702 Racine St., which has been used for nothing but storage for numerous years, and a second, attached building on the same property. They also have a contract to buy 724 Racine St.
Inspired plans to remove a cinder block tower attached to the Hoffman building, add a floor to both buildings on the property and create about 25 two-story loft apartments there, Myers said. They’re calling the project BeamHouse at the Edge of the River.
The new Edge of the River apartments are to be connected by roads running beneath the bridge, and all the new Inspired housing is to comprise an apartment community, Myers said.
“We wanted to be the anchor project for the whole riverfront project,” she said. “So, when you come into (Downtown) Racine on Sixth Street, you’re going to come into the Edge of the River development on both sides.”