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A Growing Downtown investment
Second Downtown building, former Elks Club, now in Foxconn’s plans

RACINE — Foxconn Technology Group now owns two significant buildings in Downtown, one of them historic, as a part of its Smart City-Smart Futures initiative.

This week, Foxconn closed on the purchase of 601 Lake Ave., originally the Elks Club building, for $1.2 million.

Foxconn issued this statement about the purchase of the three-story building immediately north of Memorial Hall: “Foxconn can confirm it has purchased 601 Lake Avenue in Racine. The property will support Foxconn’s ‘Smart City’ initiatives throughout Racine and the state and will contribute to the company’s efforts to help position Wisconsin as a global hub for high-tech talent and businesses.

“Further announcements about 601 Lake Avenue will be made in due course.”

The seller of the building, now called Harborview Professional Center, is Johnson Redevelopment Corp., the real estate arm of SC Johnson. A spokeswoman for SCJ said Johnson Redevelopment had owned the building since 2002 and called the sale a “strategic business decision.”

Second Downtown building

The handsome 601 Lake Ave. building, constructed in 1912-13, is six blocks south and one block east of Foxconn’s other Downtown future acquisition, One Main Centre at 1 Main St. On Oct. 2, Alan Yeung, Foxconn’s director of U.S. strategic initiatives, announced the future purchase of 1 Main St. — the purchase has not yet closed — for an innovation center, which is to be called Foxconn Place Racine.

Foxconn will be taking the entire second floor, which is now vacant, and the south half of the first floor, which has never been occupied. Yeung said the center will help support the Taiwanese company’s future “smart city” innovations.

The Foxconn Smart City-Smart Futures initiative encourages the sharing of fresh ideas, unconventional thinking and technology to address education, healthcare, transportation and housing challenges.

A Foxconn representative said Friday the purchase of 601 Lake Ave. does not change any plans for the 1 Main St. building and Foxconn Place Racine, and said that project will move forward.

Tenants of 601 Lake Ave. have received a letter informing them that a firm called FE Lake Street is the new property owner. Rent checks are now to be sent to FEWI Development Corp., a Foxconn subsidiary based at its North American headquarters in Downtown Milwaukee.

Attorney John Bjelajac of the law firm Bjelajac & Kallenbach, a first-floor tenant at 601 Lake Ave., said his firm has a lease there through April 2020. If a relocation would be necessary, he said, he does not know where his firm would go.

Other tenants of the building include several other law offices, Wells Fargo Advisors and Clean Power.

Building history

According to the Racine Heritage Museum, the 601 Lake Ave. building was completed and dedicated in 1913 as the Elks Club, short for Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.

The property first went on the market in 1973, and the city took a $1 option on the building, which gave it the right to match the highest offer on the property. However, the city gave up that option that August, citing the reason of having no money put aside. The Elks Club again offered to sell the property to the city in 1981; the city declined again because of a lack of available funds, the museum reports.

The property went on the market again in 1982, because high upkeep costs and declining Elks membership were making it impossible for the club to continue at the location.

The Milwaukee Co. bought the building in 1983 for $250,000, then renovated it as an office building which was named Harborview Professional Center.

Other purchases

In addition to the Lake Avenue building, Foxconn also recently bought the 91.7-acre Wilks farm at 4118 90th St., the northwest corner of 90th Street and Braun Road in the Village of Sturtevant. The site is immediately north of Foxconn’s Area III, the zone to be used for construction staging for building the Wisconn Valley Science and Technology Park, and then for future development. The property is flanked by residential neighborhoods to the north and east.

The land is currently assessed at $60,200.

Foxconn officials could not be reached for comment about the purchase Friday afternoon.

In addition to selling the former Elks Club, SCJ also made a recent acquisition, a $12 million purchase of the Horizon Retail Construction building at 1500 Horizon Drive, east of 90th Street and north of 16th Street, in Mount Pleasant. An SCJ spokeswoman declined to say the reason for the purchase of the 10-acre property, which is currently assessed at just less than $9.1 million.

Horizon Retail owner Patrick Christensen could not be reached for comment on the transaction Friday afternoon.

Note: The name Kallenbach was incorrectly spelled in the original article. It has been corrected. 

Government shutdown
Steil comments on his votes against funding bills

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wis., had a big first day on Capitol Hill on Thursday, voting against two bills to at least partially fund the government through the fiscal year, ending the shutdown.

During a roll call at 9:34 p.m. on Thursday, Steil, whose 1st Congressional District includes Racine County, voted against House Joint Resolution 1, which would have continued funding for the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies. The bill passed the house, 239-192, largely along partisan lines with five Republican joining with the Democrats.

At another roll call later that night, Steil voted with the majority of Republicans against House Resolution 21, which made appropriations for the fiscal year through September 2019, which also passed, 241-190.

House Democrats muscled through legislation on Thursday night to fund the government, but without money for President Donald Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S./Mexico border.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said those measures are non-starters on his side of the Capitol without the president’s support.

Steil agreed with McConnell’s position.

Trump: Shutdown could last for 'months or even years'

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump declared Friday he could keep parts of the government shut down for "months or even years" as he and Democratic leaders failed in a second closed-door meeting to resolve his demand for billions of dollars for a border wall with Mexico. They did agree to a new round of weekend talks between staff members and White House officials.

“The legislation voted on the floor last night was not a serious attempt to end the shutdown,” Steil stated in a press release. “Rather than grandstanding, I urge leadership to bring a bill to the floor that can pass through the Senate and can be signed by the President. I’m committed to finding common ground, ending the shutdown, and providing necessary funding for enhanced border security.”

In an earlier interview with The Journal Times, Steil said Trump’s proposed wall along the southern border is a “key component” of border security and said the House needed to pass a spending bill that would be approved by the Senate and the President.

“Like every American, I am frustrated with the current situation and the continuous cycle of shutting down the government over political fights,” Steil stated. “We need to reopen the government.”

After meeting with the president on Friday along with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, R-N.Y., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters that Democrats “will continue our conversations but we all recognize, on the Democratic side, that we really can’t resolve this until we open up government and we made that very clear to the President.

“Services are being withheld from the American people, paychecks are being withheld from people who serve the needs of the American people, and our border security will suffer if we do not resolve this issue,” Pelosi said.

“We are committed to keeping our borders safe. That has always been our principle: to honor the oath of office that we take to protect and defend our country and our Constitution. We can do that best when government is open. We’ve made that clear to the President.”

“Like every American, I am frustrated with the current situation and the continuous cycle of shutting down the government over political fights. We need to reopen the government.” U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wis.

Racine Unified
If none file to run, a write-in could win Unified School Board seat

RACINE COUNTY — Just a few write-in votes could mean victory for a local resident this spring if no candidates file to run for the open Racine Unified School Board District 9 seat by Monday.

As of late Friday afternoon, no one had filed for the seat being vacated by board President Robert Wittke Jr. when his term ends in April.

If no candidate files paperwork to run for the seat before the 5 p.m. Monday deadline, the person who gets the most write-in votes in the April election would win the race. Although the deadline to turn in paperwork to be placed on the ballot as a candidate is Monday, candidates only have through today to collect nomination signatures.

Nomination forms can be found at the Wisconsin Elections Commission website:

If just one person receives one write-in vote for District 9 in the April 2 election and there were no other write-in votes, that person would be the winner, said Dan Mallin, legal and policy services counsel for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards. A write-in winner would have to be eligible to serve in public office and live within District 9, which encompasses the northern portion of the Unified district, including most of Caledonia and Wind Point.

The deadline to file as a registered write-in candidate is noon on March 29, which is the Friday before the April 2 election. If no one registers as a write-in candidate, then any identifiable and qualified person who lives in the district could be written in and elected.

In the case that someone writes in a neighbor or friend as a joke and the write-in wins, Mallin said that person could refuse to take the oath of office and would not be obligated to serve.

If there are no valid write-in votes or if the top write-in vote-getter doesn’t wish to serve on the School Board, a new District 9 representative would be appointed by the remaining board members.

Candidates file in districts 1 and 8

The initial deadline to file to run for District 9, as well as the other two open Unified board seats was 5 p.m. Wednesday. Since neither District 1 incumbent Michelle Duchow nor District 9 incumbent Wittke filed for re-election or filed papers of non-candidacy, the deadline to turn in paperwork was extended to 5 p.m. Monday, while the deadline to collect signatures was extended through Saturday (Jan. 5).

District 1 covers the Sturtevant area, and two district residents have filed to run for that seat: Amy Cimbalnik and Jared Bellis, both Village of Sturtevant residents.

The District 8 School Board seat also is up for election this spring, but the filing deadline was not extended, as incumbent Matthew Hanser filed for re-election.

Wittke chose not to seek re-election to the School Board after being elected in November to represent the 62nd District in the state Assembly.