RACINE — The closing date for the Ajax redevelopment site in Uptown Racine has been pushed back to the end of November, though work to remediate contamination on the site is scheduled to begin next month.

David Fisher, director of development for West Allis-based Cardinal Capital Management, attended Thursday’s meeting of the city’s Redevelopment Authority to explain that they are waiting on the release of Community Development Block Grants from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

HUD is holding a 30-day comment period on the CDBG application before releasing the funds. If Cardinal closes on the property before the grant funds are released, it would lose the grant.

The initial request was to extend the deadline to Nov. 22, but RDA Chairwoman Jen Adamski asked if they were absolutely certain that was enough time. Given the number of delays that have come up with the project, Fisher suggested moving it back to the end of the month, Nov. 30.

However, Fisher said pushing the closing deadline back won’t delay initial work on the project. Cardinal scheduled environmental remediation to address the site’s contamination to begin in November and, with the RDA’s permission, that work, which needs to start before the ground freezes, will start on time.

A history of delays

Cardinal Capital first announced its $18 million plan to redevelop the former Ajax complex, which is more than three acres of some of Racine’s oldest industrial buildings on the 1500 block of Clark Street in Uptown, in March 2018. The company manufactured automotive equipment.

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The proposal was to demolish all but one of the old buildings — the historic Pabst tavern on the block’s southeastern corner, and in its place Cardinal would build 112 “workforce housing” units.

The project appeared to be making little progress, with no development agreement in sight and the closing deadline getting pushed back multiple times.

On July 30, the City Council’s Committee of the Whole held a meeting to which they invited city staff and RDA members to discuss the delays. After that meeting, Alderman John Tate II, whose 3rd District includes the Ajax site, was optimistic that the project would move forward.

Caridinal also was set to redevelop the YMCA building at 725 Lake Ave., though that deal has officially fallen through.

Cardinal Capital President Erich Schwenker did not go into detail about that decision, but told The Journal Times: “The mayor had a vision; we will not be involved in that.”

Mayor Cory Mason said shortly after the announcement that developers who announce big projects without meeting with the city first — and who seek city financial incentives — are starting out on thin ice because money for granting incentives is extremely limited.

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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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