RACINE — City officials have been talking a lot in the last few months about plans to transform 3.2 acres of land along Mound Avenue as part of the RootWorks: Root River Corridor Redevelopment Plan.
Tonight the City Council will weigh in the project again when they are asked to give their approval to a redevelopment plan for the area.
The plan calls for the city to acquire five parcels located across the street from the former Western Publishing building, and turn them into a recreation area with a bike path, scenic overlook and outdoor classroom.
If aldermen vote to adopt the plan it will be the last time they are asked to sign off on the this part of RootWorks until the Redevelopment Authority or the city itself ask for permission to apply for grants to help pay for engineering or construction work at the project site.
The council will not be asked to approve the acquisition and relocation plan for the five properties, explained Assistant Director of City Development Matt Sadowski on Monday. By voting to support the redevelopment plan, they will be voting to give the city or RDA permission to either purchase the properties, or, if necessary, acquire them using their powers of eminent domain, he said.
The Board of the Redevelopment Authority and City Plan Commission signed off of the redevelopment plan earlier this month.
Getting the properties
Located at 1231 Mound Ave., 1251 Mound Ave., 1269 Mound Ave., 1281 Mound Ave. and 1287 Mound Ave., the properties slated for redevelopment currently consist of a few parking lots, a former industrial building, a storage building and a house.
The city was recently awarded a $242,000 matching grant through the state Department of Natural Resources to help pay for the purchase of the properties.
To match the grant the city plans to use a donation of land from one of the property owners, grant dollars from other sources and $86,483 in intergovernmental shared revenue funds.
There is always a chance that a key property owner could hold out and decide not to sell to the city, but Sadowski has said that the owner of the largest of the five parcels — Mound Avenue Associates — has already agreed to donate their property.
“If it came to a point where we could not come to an agreement with a property owner on a sale price, the city would have to make a decision whether or not it would want to pursue the property through eminent domain,” Sadowski said. “It would all depend on how crucial the property is or isn’t to implementing the plan.”
If the city did decide to use eminent domain to acquire one of the parcels, he said, it couldn’t use the DNR grant dollars to pay for the acquisition of that particular parcel.
What comes next
Approval of the redevelopment plan will allow the RDA to move forward with the next step in the process, which is to hire a relocation and acquisition expert to assist it with the process of acquiring the properties along Mound Ave. How much those services will cost is still unclear, but funds would likely come out of the city’s intergovernmental shared revenue funds, Sadowski said.
Once the city has acquired all the properties it feels it needs to make the redevelopment reality it will begin studying the land around the properties and bluff to determine what is needed to ready the land for construction.
If all goes well, Sadowski said he envisions that work getting underway this fall.
“If this proceeds as we foresee potential construction of the actual bike path could begin sometime next summer,” he added.