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Wild Root Market

An artist’s rendering shows of the $5 million Wild Root Market, planned for 500 Walton Ave.

RACINE — Wild Root Market advocates sang for their supper on Wednesday.

On the City Council agenda that night was a motion to release $175,000 of the $390,000 in grant funds the city has awarded the grocery cooperative so Wild Root would be able to close on their proposed location at 500 Walton Ave.

Paul Sloth, a member of Wild Root’s Board of Directors, was the first Wild Root representative at the podium for the public comment segment.

“I’m actually here to sing,” Sloth said. “Hit it, Randy!”

Pianist Randy Fischer then started playing “Food Glorious Food” from the musical “Oliver,” while Sloth sang about “Food, Wild Root Food” to the council.

“Generally I’m supposed to bang the gavel when people clap for the public comment,” Mayor Cory Mason said over the applause for Sloth. “But in this case, I think it was allowable.”

Funds released but with caveat

The council ultimately decided to release the $175,000, with provisions that it can only be used to purchase the building. Also if the coop’s doesn’t come through by Dec. 31 with the rest of its financing, the city will assume ownership of the property.

Wild Root Board President Rose Nelson told the council that in addition to the grant from the city, the coop has raised another approximately $250,000 in grants, $1.25 million in owner loans and $2.1 million in promised private financing.

In exchange for the advanced release of the grant funds, City Administrator Jim Palenick said the city will be the first lien on the property. If the private financing doesn’t come together by the end of the year, which is the ultimate deadline for the co-op, 500 Walden Ave. would become property of the city.

“We’d try to make sure it’d be back in private hands as soon as possible,” said Palenick.

The council approved the motion with nine votes from Aldermen Coe, Jones, Larrin, Smetana, Weidner, Shakoor, Land, Perez and Meekma.

Alderman Carrie Glen of the 10th District voted in opposition.

Alderman John Tate II from the 3rd District abstained. Aldermen Terry McCarthy, James Morgenroth and Melissa Lemke were not present.

Wild Root Secretary Margie Michicich said the organization hopes to close on the property sometime next week.

Michicich is also on the committee to find a general manager for the grocery store. They are accepting applications for the position.

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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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