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Machinery Row work ongoing, slower than first expected
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Machinery Row work ongoing, slower than first expected

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RACINE — Developers of the estimated $65 million Machinery Row project continue to study building layout options and will soon choose a company to begin certain deconstruction and demolition activities.

Those were among the updates that Machinery Row Project Manager Jim Bowman provided last week, although there is no date yet when work will begin.

Machinery Row is the project announced last summer by Davenport, Iowa-based Financial District Properties. The plan, which includes apartments and commercial space, takes its name from the area named Machinery Row in the RootWorks riverfront redevelopment plan.

The redevelopment area consists of 20 riverfront acres north of Water Street and east of Marquette Street. The area encompasses all of Azarian Marina, 726 Water St., and two large former industrial buildings constructed by J.I. Case Co. between 1908 and 1915.

Bowman said project work is “absolutely” ongoing, albeit more slowly than first expected.

“That’s not uncommon for projects of this magnitude,” he said, and noted, “We have significant capital at risk.”

Bowman said he still thinks FDP can have apartments “close to ready” for occupancy late next year as previously planned.

Partial deconstruction

FDP plans to have a rear section or two of both buildings, nearest Root River, removed, Bowman said. They are larger than needed; 900 Water St. contains about 500,000 square feet of floor space, and 820 Water St. about half that amount.

“It’s not hurting us to take part of the buildings down,” he explained. There’s a substantial cost for deconstruction but an even greater cost to keep and remodel the entire spaces — and then returns would have to justify the cost.

If Machinery Row’s apartments would fill up and there were additional demand, FDP would build more, Bowman said. When Azarian Marina is gone, there will be two prime spots for apartments, he said: the northeast corner of Water and Marquette streets and southeast corner of Marquette and the river.

Deconstructing the northern ends of the two buildings will open more public space along the river, Bowman pointed out. Creating public access to the river and a public walkway have been part of the plan from the beginning.

FDP’s general contractor, Minneapolis-based Ryan Companies, should be able to choose a firm soon for the deconstruction job, Bowman said. Timbers and bricks from that process will be reused in building out the apartments.

Deconstruction may or may not begin soon, Bowman said. The decision will be tied to removal of the building’s walls — which are not original and which contain asbestos — and whether the buildings could be left open to the elements until construction starts.

He hoped to convene a work meeting this week with all the firms involved and begin laying out the work schedule.

Goal: both at once

At first, FDP talked about redeveloping the larger building first and then starting on the second. But now the definite preference is to do both buildings fairly simultaneously, Bowman said.

“We really hope we can tackle both structures at the same time,” he said, because for future renters of handsome, new market-rate apartments, “You want to look out at something aesthetically pleasing.”

Market-rate apartments continue as a major Machinery Row component, he said, while the developer explores commercial uses to pair with residential space. FDP is leaning toward building more one-bedroom apartments and fewer two- or three-bedroom apartments because one-bedroom apartments are in greater demand in the greater Milwaukee area, Bowman said.

Indoor parking was not in the original plan, but a “limited amount” and storage units have been added as elements, he said.

FDP continues to believe commercial tenants at Machinery Row should be businesses complementary to residential living and the greater Downtown neighborhood, Bowman said. Those categories would include food and beverage, a bar, fitness/recreation and entertainment such as a movie or video component, he said.

Architects and structural engineers continue to study the buildings to learn their constraints and opportunities, Bowman said.

“We know the clock is ticking,” he said. FDP owes the City of Racine a developer’s agreement and financing agreement in November.

“We know we have a deadline with the city this fall,” Bowman said, “and we plan to make that.”

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Reporter

Michael "Mick" Burke covers business and the Village of Sturtevant. He is the proud father of two daughters and owner of a fantastic, although rug-chewing, German shepherd dog.

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RACINE — The emptying of the larger Machinery Row building of stored merchandise, to clear the way for its redevelopment, has begun.

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