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Infrastructure funding for hotel/convention center going to City Council
Convention center project

Infrastructure funding for hotel/convention center going to City Council

Gatehouse hotel, convention center

This rendering shows the revised proposal for a $48 million hotel, at right, and additional convention center space, in background, at the north end of Festival Park. The new convention center would be tied in with Festival Hall, which would be renovated. This view looks toward the southeast; Lake Avenue is at right.

RACINE — A proposed agreement between the city and Racine Water Utility to spend an estimated $165,000 on water infrastructure for the proposed Festival Hall hotel and convention center will go before the City Council on Tuesday.

The funds will go towards the engineering, design and construction of a potential lift station and pressurized sewer pipe to accommodate the project, which is scheduled to begin construction this fall.

During the Finance and Personnel Committee meeting on Wednesday, Alderman Trevor Jung of the 9th District asked if the additional infrastructure was anticipated when the city passed a $21 million incentive package for the project.

City Administrator Jim Palenick said that yes, they had anticipated that the project would require investments in sewer, water and other public infrastructure and that had been budgeted within the incentive package.

Alderman John Tate II of the 3rd District asked how much of the $21 million package had been allocated for infrastructure. Kathleen Fischer, the city’s assistant financial director, estimated it was between $1.2 million and $1.5 million.

The $165,000 estimate includes:

  • $30,000 for study and evaluation
  • $70,000 for project engineering
  • $15,000 for bidding the project
  • $50,000 for construction oversight and inspection.

The costs would initially be paid by the utility, which would then be reimbursed by the city. The city anticipates expending $115,000 from its 2020 budget and the remaining $50,000 in 2021.

The committee voted unanimously to send the proposal to the City Council with a recommendation of approval. The next City Council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday. The Council will meet virtually and the meeting will be live streamed on the City of Racine, On the Lake Facebook page.

The project

Dallas-based Gatehouse Capital Corp. is working with the City of Racine in a $48 million public-private partnership to create:

  • A 171-room, full-service, branded hotel, likely a Sheraton, with 107 lakeview rooms near the southeast corner of Lake Avenue and the causeway on part of the current Festival Park grounds.
  • A rooftop restaurant and observation deck/bar atop the hotel.
  • A separate but connected convention center with 34,950 square feet of new construction and renovation of Festival Hall’s existing 17,825 square feet of space.

As part of the project, Festival Hall is to be renovated, primarily to improve its interior appearance and acoustics.

Gatehouse expects to start site work this year and construction likely by late fall and hopes to open in spring 2022.

The convention center is based on an elaborate funding plan which requires $21 million of public investment — but without creating any property tax burden on city or county taxpayers, city officials say.

A second phase of the Gatehouse development plan is to build a second hotel of 100 rooms, five or six years later, east of the first one.


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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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