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Hospitality Center

A woman leaves the Hospitality Center, 614 Main St. The City Council approved the center's new conditional use permit on Tuesday. 

RACINE — The Hospitality Center’s conditional-use permit was approved by the City Council on Tuesday, with conditions that were agreed to by the center and Downtown business owners.

On Nov. 14, the Hospitality Center, 614 Main St., requested the city’s permission to extend its operations from four to five days a week. That request was initially denied by the City Plan Commission, citing past noncompliance and neighborhood complaints regarding the daytime homeless shelter and free meal source.

However, the center and Downtown business owners reached a compromise, which they brought to the commission. The Plan Commission recommended approval of the center’s permit and, if it fulfills the following conditions for the next seven months, then its request to expand services may be approved.

Hospitality Center looks to be a better neighbor Downtown

Those conditions include:

  • Limiting hours of operation to Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 7:30 a.m. until 1 p.m.
  • Preventing loitering and littering by having a monitor outside to tell people to either move inside or leave if they hang around for too long.
  • Restricting smoking to the south side of the building.
  • Having the monitor instruct guests to not yell inside or outside of the building, thus reducing unnecessary and obtrusive noise.
  • Instructing volunteers and staff not to “monopolize” parking spaces around the building.
  • Displaying “No loitering” signs.

Council President Jason Meekma of the 14th District commented on how “refreshing” it was to see two sides come to a compromise.

The council voted unanimously in support with the exception of Alderman Carrie Glenn of the 10th District who abstained. Alderman Tracey Larrin of the 4th District and Alderman James Morgenroth of the 13th District were absent.

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Public voices support

During the public comment segment of Tuesday’s meeting, 13 people spoke out in support of the center and its mission, including J.J. McAuliffe who owns McAuliffe’s on the Square, 213 6th St.

McAuliffe, in addition to being a Downtown business owner has also lived Downtown for many years. He said that while he understands that business owners are concerned about loitering, he doesn’t think the center is responsible.

“Loitering has been an issue for many, many years — it’s not the Hospitality Center that’s causing a lot of that loitering,” McAuliffe said. “It’s always been here.”

Pastor Holly Anderle with First Baptist Church, 3117 Lathrop Ave., told the council that many of the people the Hospitality Center serves live in Downtown Racine.

“If we move the Hospitality Center, the people are still in the Downtown area but then have no access to make it to the Hospitality Center,” Anderle said. “It’s also important to remember that St. Luke’s has been in that same location since 1866 doing the same kind of work for those that need a friend, those that need clothes, those that need to eat.”

Rachel McGinley, a marketing manager at SC Johnson, talked about how, when McGinley was a child, her mother left an abusive relationship and McGinley grew up experiencing poverty and homelessness. After years of living in shelters, her family was able to afford housing but still struggled to make ends meet.

“We were dependent on the support of local charities just like the Hospitality Center for meals, clothing and fellowship,” McGinley said. “Places like the Hospitality Center gave me the opportunity to become who I am today.”

No one at the meeting spoke publicly against the center’s permit.

The center’s request for extended hours is planned to be revisited after June 30.

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Christina Lieffring covers the Burlington area and the Village of Caledonia. Before moving to Racine, she lived in Nebraska, Beijing, Chicago and grew up in Kansas City.

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