RACINE — After a closed-session discussion of the delayed housing project proposed for the former Ajax Industrial site, there appears to be some optimism that the project will move forward.

Alderman John Tate II of the 3rd District, which includes the Ajax site in the 1500 block of Clark Street in Uptown, said he left the closed-session conversation between city staff and the City Council optimistic that the project will come to fruition.

“What we came away with was a shared understanding of the process and everyone getting a chance to express their shared understanding of what the obstacles are,” said Tate. “I think there are some options to make it happen, it’s just a matter of weighing those options.”

‘Very productive conversations’

In the 16 months since Cardinal Capital Management presented its $18 million plan to redevelop the former Ajax site, the project has made little progress. Cardinal, which is based in West Allis and also is the developer behind the proposed lakefront YMCA reconstruction, has not signed a development agreement with the city, nor has it acquired the property.

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In June, the Redevelopment Authority of Racine voted to extend Cardinal’s purchase option until Oct. 3, despite the sole “no” vote by Mayor Cory Mason. Mason stated that he had “concerns” about the project, but declined to elaborate.

A few aldermen, including Tate, and the Uptown Business Improvement District advocated to have a discussion about the project and its delays. A Committee of the Whole meeting was scheduled for 6 p.m. on July 30 and members of the RDA were invited to participate as well.

When asked about updates to the project, City Communications Director Shannon Powell stated that the city continues to have “very productive conversations” with the developer.

“We have a solid partnership with Cardinal Capital and have been working diligently to come to agreement that is financially responsible to the taxpayers of Racine,” Powell wrote in an email statement. “Unfortunately, this process often takes longer than anyone would like, but together, we are making progress to move the project forward.”

The $18 million housing project was announced in March 2018 and the site encompasses more than 3 acres and some of Racine’s oldest industrial buildings. Cardinal’s proposal is to demolish all but one of the old buildings — the historic Pabst tavern on the block’s southeastern corner. In its place it would build 112 “workforce housing” units.

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Christina Lieffring covers the City of Racine and the City of Burlington and is a not-bad photographer. In her spare time she tries to keep her plants and guinea pigs alive and happy.

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