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Taylor Hall at the DeKoven Center

Officials at the DeKoven Center, 600 21st St., are hoping the city will allow it to open five Airbnb rental rooms. Two requests from the center went before Racine's Plan Commission on Wednesday. Pictured here is Taylor Hall on the DeKoven Center grounds.

RACINE — The DeKoven Center wants to jump on the Airbnb trend and open five of its rooms up for short-term rentals. But for that to be allowed, the city is going to have to change one of its ordinances or make an exception.

Under the City of Racine’s current hotel/motel ordinance, an Airbnb can only be established at the operator’s primary residence. Airbnb is one of the most popular vacation rental services, through which people are able to rent out apartments and homes to guests via Airbnb's website or mobile app.

The operator of DeKoven, the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee, doesn’t have a permanent residence at the center, 520 21st St., although there are about 10 long-term apartments that are rented out around the campus. The center’s zoning designation also doesn’t allow for short-term rentals.

Representatives from The DeKoven Center intended to make two requests of the city’s Plan Commission on Wednesday:

  • A change in zoning that would allow short-term rentals, and
  • A change to the rule that requires the operator of an Airbnb to reside onsite.

City staff recommended approving both of DeKoven’s requests. But only three members of the Plan Commission (9th District Alderman Trevor Jung, Commissioner Samuel Peete and Chairman Jason Meekma, who is the City Council president and a non-voting member of the Plan Commission) made it to City Hall on Wednesday afternoon. One more voting member was needed to reach quorum, and so the meeting was canceled.

DeKoven’s requests are expected to be discussed at the Plan Commission’s next meeting on July 24.

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City Airbnb history

Two of the planned Airbnbs at DeKoven would be in the Gatehouse on the southwest corner of the campus, where there are already four other apartments in operation. The other rental units are planned for the East Building next to the Great Hall, where three apartments are expected to be converted into Airbnbs.

DeKoven’s proposal assured the city that allowing overnight guests would not be a detriment to the neighborhood and could even increase tourism to the area.

In May, The DeKoven Center published a community newsletter in The Journal Times announcing its intent to start offering short-term rentals. Those plans were quickly put on hold when the city issued a letter that informed the center it would not be legal to operate an Airbnb there.

One of the primary reasons DeKoven became interested in Airbnb was to provide housing to attendees of weddings and wedding receptions; the facility hosts approximately 35 receptions and 50 wedding ceremonies yearly, according to Event Manager Mandy Tutas.

By providing overnight housing, the center would become even more attractive to weddings and other special events, Tutas said.

“We’ve had a lot of couples inquiring about staying on site,” Tutas explained. She added that being able to stay at the facility would also be a draw to bridal parties and parents of newlyweds.

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