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Lakefront redevelopment
With video: Racine unveils details of $50 million lakefront development

RACINE — A minimum $50 million, mostly residential construction project of 242 market-rate apartments is planned for the former Walker Manufacturing site along Lake Michigan.

And that’s just phase one.

At a news conference in Mayor Cory Mason’s office Wednesday morning, Mason and staff members shared details of the first phase of a planned redevelopment of the former Walker site, currently considered the city’s prime development opportunity.

In October, Mason and Kevin Newell, president of Milwaukee-based Royal Capital Group, announced an agreement that Newell’s company could develop the site. But no other specifics were divulged.

At the press conference, Mason and Newell announced plans for the Walker site, just north of Pugh Marina at 1129 Michigan Blvd., for the first time.

“Big picture on this: This is the biggest redevelopment project we have seen in this city in probably a generation,” Mason said.

As important, he said, is that this project will be “building a community” and getting local people back to work.

The property lies between Pugh Marina, 1001 Michigan Blvd., the city water treatment plant at 100 Hubbard St., and the lake.

Mason said Royal Capital is buying the city-owned site for $3.2 million. The mayor praised the company as a business partner and for the development work it is doing in connection with the Milwaukee Bucks’ new arena.

Prior to the news conference, Mason, City Administrator Jim Palenick and City Development Director Amy Connolly shared conceptual plans for the first phase of the development named @ North Beach. It is currently expected to consist of:

  • A seven-story apartment building including a two-story parking structure;
  • A five-story apartment building with one story of parking and a total, between the two structures, of 241 parking spaces;
  • A total of 242 market-rate apartments ranging from one to three bedrooms each;
  • A total of 364,666 square feet of new construction; and
  • About 4,400 square feet of retail space, possibly including a restaurant.

The buildings will be certified under the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, or LEED, program, Mason said, and will have some “smart city” components.

“This is a great time to be in Racine,” Newell said after Mason introduced him. “This is an amazing time for the community; you guys have definitely earned this opportunity.

“We came to Racine, out of all the other opportunities we could have chased after in the local market, based upon the leadership here. Being able to work with a mayor and council and staff that gets it, that share the same values that we share, made this partnership viable.”

Mason said phase two is also envisioned to be mostly market-rate housing. “The idea is that we’re really building a neighborhood in here,” he said.

“With walkability; you’re only a block from the lake,” Connolly put in. “Whether you’ve got a lake view or not, you’re still going to have direct access to the lake.”

The Foxconn stimulus

“I’m really excited about it,” Mason said about the @ North Beach plan. “This is the largest residential development we’ve seen in Racine in at least 20 years.”

Mason said the construction project will create 350 jobs. He said the project will be the first done under the Racine Works program, meaning at least 20 percent of the worker hours will have to come from low- to moderate-income Racine residents.

“I’m really excited about getting my hands dirty with the entire team and finding ways to get people to work here,” Newell said.

Connolly said the former brownfield was remediated to industrial standards and given closure by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

For residential development, there are some additional environmental issues to address, but they are not significant, she said. The city is working with Royal Capital on a brownfield cleanup loan, a revolving loan that starts as money from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Phase one is to occupy the easternmost portion, roughly half, of the 9½-acre site. The project, including new infrastructure, is expected to start in spring — both the public infrastructure and private development — and take about 18 months to build, Connolly said.

The Walker site, which was renamed Harborside, comprises a large chunk of what was to have become the Pointe Blue development; that also would have included Pugh Marina. However, that plan self-combusted as the Great Recession was roaring to life.

But Mason pointed out that this is a different economy, and he voiced confidence in Royal Capital. The Milwaukee Bucks selected Royal Capital for the mixed-use housing and retail development that is part of the $1 billion downtown Milwaukee entertainment district that includes Fiserv Forum, which opened in late summer.

“Foxconn has changed everything,” Mason said.

“Pre-Foxconn, we wouldn’t have been here,” Palenick agreed, “and this wouldn’t have happened.”

“I think people are excited about what the possibility of Foxconn means for the future of the city,” Mason said. “And so, what we’re seeing with this project and others is (developers) looking at our waterfront for redevelopment in ways that we haven’t seen in a long time.”


Pete Wicklund / PAUL ROBERTS Journal Times file photo  

President George H.W. Bush stands at the lectern to address a crowd at the Burlington train depot on Halloween 1992 before embarking on a whistle-stop campaign by train during the final days of the 1992 race for president against then Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas. With the president at the event was his wife Barbara, to the president's right, and then Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thomson, to Bush's left, and U.S. Sen. Robert Kasten, R-Wis., standing next to Thompson. The day before, the president had made a campaign appearance at Memorial Hall in Racine.


Crime-and-courts
Racine City Council
City Council rejects proposed settlement over dog killing

RACINE — The Racine City Council on Tuesday rejected a proposed settlement over the killing of a family dog during the execution of a “no-knock” warrant in 2016.

Representatives for the city and legal counsel for the Harmon family reached a settlement on Nov. 28 that, had it been approved by council, would have been referred to the judge for dismissal of the case.

City Attorney Scott Letteney discussed the proposed settlement with the City Council’s Finance and Personnel Committee in closed session last week and then with the Executive Committee in closed session on Tuesday before the council meeting.

The Executive Committee meeting went from 5:30 p.m. through the scheduled 6 p.m. Committee of the Whole meeting and let out just after 7 p.m., causing a late start for the City Council meeting.

Council President Jason Meekma, the alderman for the 14th District, made the motion to deny the settlement, which was approved by all aldermen except Terry McCarthy of the 9th District. Alderman Tracey Larrin of the 4th District and Alderman Jim Morgenroth of the 13th were not present at Tuesday’s meeting.

Neither Meekma nor Letteney would say whether the council objected to the terms of the settlement or to settling at all.

Letteney did not disclose what the terms of the proposed settlement were, nor whether the city would attempt to renegotiate. The trial for the case is scheduled for Feb. 11.

The background

In December 2016, the Racine Police Department, along with the Racine County Gang Unit and the FBI, executed a “no-knock” search warrant at the home of Sara and Joseph Harmon at about 5 a.m.

Law enforcement was acting on a tip about a shots-fired incident and took the Harmons’ son in for questioning.

The Harmons’ 2-year-old English bulldog, Sugar, was reportedly scared by the police breaking down the door and retreated to Sara’s room. There Sugar was shot as many as five times. The dog was taken from the scene, but a bloody mess was left on Sara’s bed and walls.

Police reportedly told the family that it is protocol to kill a dog during the execution of a search warrant, and that was all of the information the family was reportedly given.

The search did not uncover any illegal activity and no arrests were made.

The Harmons sued the City of Racine and four Racine police officers in federal court, claiming their rights to be free from unreasonable seizures and excessive force were violated when their dog was killed during the execution of the warrant.

According to police records, Sugar was the 13th dog shot from 2012 through 2016 while a search warrant was being executed.


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Local
State Politics
Racine area officials respond to special session

MADISON — Wisconsin Republicans worked through the night to vote early Wednesday morning on lame-duck bills that would diminish the powers of the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general.

Republicans say the changes are needed to preserve the powers of the Legislature.

Lawmakers in the state Senate Wednesday voted 17-16 to approve a sweeping set of measures that also narrowed the state’s window for early voting, among other changes.

There were a few high profile issues that did not get approved, such as tax incentives for Kimberly-Clark and moving the 2020 Wisconsin presidential primary.

State Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, joined Democrats in opposing the wide-reaching bill, which cleared the chamber at about 6 a.m.

State Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, and Sen. Dave Craig, R-Vernon, voted in favor of the bill and state Sen. Bob Wirch, D-Somers, voted against the bill. Craig and Wirch represent portions of Racine County.

The Assembly passed the bill on a 56-27 vote just before 8:30 a.m.

In the Assembly, Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, state Rep. Tom Weatherston, R-Caledonia, state Rep. Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva  (whose district includes part of the Town of Burlington), state Rep. Chuck Wichgers, R-Muskego (whose district also includes the Village and Town of Waterford) voted in favor of the bill; state Rep. Greta Neubauer, D-Racine, and state Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, voted against it.

The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who has signaled that he is likely to sign it. Once signed, the measures are “virtually certain to end up in litigation,” Democratic Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul told reporters Tuesday.

Democratic Governor-elect Evers has asked Walker to veto the bills passed during the lame-duck session.

The votes Wednesday came after hours of delays that kept lawmakers in the Capitol overnight as Republicans worked behind closed doors to strike agreements on the proposals.

The Senate was originally scheduled to convene at 11 a.m. Tuesday, with the Assembly following at 1 p.m. Both chambers met briefly at several points throughout the night, but did not return in earnest until the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

Democrats have sharply criticized the session saying Republicans are taking power from Evers before he takes office. However, Republicans say the session is a necessary change to shift more powers from the executive branch to the Legislature.

Vos, whose voice was nearly gone after hours of negotiations, said the legislation makes sure “that the powers of each branch are as equal as they can be.”

“The Legislature is the most representative branch of government and the closest to the people of Wisconsin,” Vos said. “Our proposals guarantee that the Legislature always has a seat the table. With divided government, these bills allow for more discussions and opportunities to find common ground.”

What is in the bills?

Under the legislation, the state could not withdraw from a lawsuit without legislative approval — a change that would prevent Evers and Kaul from upholding their campaign promises to remove Wisconsin from a multi-state lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

The legislation would also eliminate the solicitor general’s office. It would also allow lawmakers to hire private attorneys with tax dollars to intervene on their behalf if a state law is challenged in court, although the special counsel would not act in place of the attorney general as was proposed when the legislation was first introduced. In those cases, lawmakers would have final approval of settlements.

Under the proposals, legislators would have increased influence over the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, and the WEDC board, not the governor, would appoint the job creation agency’s CEO. However, the governor’s power to appoint a CEO would be restored in September 2019.

The legislation would also prevent Evers from banning guns in the Capitol without legislative approval, and would limit the ability of Evers’ administration to implement the rules that dictate how state laws are enforced.

The bill also limits the time during which early voting may take place to two weeks before an election.

Wanggaard called criticism to the session “hysteria” and said these bills, “are not an assault on democracy or the powers of the governor and attorney general.”

Wanggaard said the bills “give the Legislature greater oversight.”

“If future governors seek to expand Medicaid with a cost of greater than $7.5 million, or otherwise increase spending in health care, he or she will have to seek permission from the Legislature just like he or she would with any other government program,” Wanggaard said. “As the Legislature has done in the last several years, we continued to restrain administrative rules by creating more accountability and ensuring that the Legislature is the law-making body, not the bureaucracy.”

Democrats respond to the vote

Neubauer said Republicans should respect the wishes of Wisconsin voters who chose to put Evers and Kaul into office.

“They voted for a government for the people, not eight more years of Republican partisan games,” Neubauer said. “My Republican colleagues have made it clear that they don’t care that the people of Wisconsin voted for a new governor. They are willing to change the rules when they lose, play politics for partisan gain, and undermine our democracy, instead of listening to their constituents.”

Barca, sarcastically, said the Legislature “made history last night.”

“For the first time in the history of our state, the Legislature is using a post-election, lame-duck legislative session to actively take authority from incoming, newly elected constitutional officers of the state,” Barca said. “We could have used this period to begin finding compromise and working together, but the Republican majority refused to let go of unified control without causing more discord and division.”

Wirch called the session a “desperate attempt by Republicans to hold on to power.”

“The voters of Wisconsin have spoken loud and clear that they support the agenda put forward by Tony Evers and Josh Kaul,” Wirch said. “It is absolutely shameful for Speaker Vos, Majority Leader (Scott) Fitzgerald and their members to bring us into a lame-duck session to take away their democratically-elected duties.”

The Senate failed to pass a health care bill that would cover pre-existing conditions with Republicans Craig and Chris Kapenga of Delafield joining Democrats in voting against the bill. The bill was previously passed in the Assembly.

During the Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Tuesday, demonstrators booed Walker as a result of the legislative action taken by state Republicans.