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Former Walker site

The former Walker Manufacturing site is shown here at foreground right in this Aug. 11, 2010, photo. Pugh Marina is immediately south, along the Root River. Mayor Cory Mason has announced an agreement with Royal Capital Group to develop the Walker site, which has been renamed Harborside.

RACINE — Mayor Cory Mason and Royal Capital Group, a major developer in the Milwaukee Bucks’ arena project, have reached an agreement to allow Royal Capital to redevelop the former Walker Manufacturing site.

Mason and Royal Capital President Kevin Newell announced Tuesday that the developer and city have reached a principle agreement for the Milwaukee-based developer to buy the former Walker site, along the lakefront at 1129 Michigan Blvd. A mixed-use development plan is being explored, Mason’s office stated, without providing more details.

Entering into the agreement with Royal Capital gives the developer exclusive rights to the 9.5-acre property, which has been renamed Harborside, as it begins to negotiate use, design, and public benefit with the City of Racine. The property, a former brownfield that has been prepared for redevelopment, lies between Pugh Marina, 1001 Michigan Blvd.; the city water treatment plant at 100 Hubbard St.; and the lake.

The Milwaukee Bucks selected Royal Capital for the mixed-use housing and retail development that is part of the $1 billion downtown Milwaukee entertainment district, which includes Fiserv Forum, which opened in late summer.

In mid-May the developer broke ground at the site of the future luxury lofts, Five Fifty Ultra Lofts, at 550 W. Juneau Ave. That development is to include a rooftop lounge overlooking downtown Milwaukee and the Forum, indoor-outdoor fitness gym, a social lounge open to the public, a first-floor “flex” lounge for entertaining large crowds, and indoor skywalk access directly into the Forum.

A desirable site

The long-vacant Harborside is one of the city’s most desirable development sites with its nearness to, and view of, the lake.

“There is more interest now in the City of Racine from developers than there has been in several decades,” Mason stated in a news release. “I am excited that we have found a reputable developer who shares the same values as the city when it comes to being innovative in design, while producing an environmentally sustainable product, and who’s focused on benefiting the lives of our residents.”

An assistant to Mason said he would have no further comment at this time.

“Our firm is excited about the opportunity to transform this underutilized lakefront property into a development that further adds to Racine’s vibrancy in line with the future of smart cities,” Newell stated. “Furthermore, we are committed to working with the community, business community, and city leadership to ensure that this site becomes a catalyst for what’s to come in the city of Racine.”

Newell could not be reached for further comment Tuesday.

Founded by Newell, Royal Capital is dedicated to a strategy of urban development. With a focus on multifamily and multifamily mixed-use real estate developments, Royal Capital has made significant investment in the Wisconsin market.

Since 2012, Royal Capital has performed as the primary developer and owner on more than $175 million in total investment.

Site history

The Water Utility bought the entire Walker property in 1999 for $1.7 million and paid to have the buildings demolished. The Water Utility kept 5.5 acres along the north end and built an expansion there. The utility then sold the rest to the city in 2003 for about $1.3 million.

From about 2005-07, the city thought it had a Walker site developer: Racine native and former state legislator Scott Fergus. In 2005, he announced his plan for a residential and retail development called Pointe Blue, to be built by his company, KeyBridge Development Group.

Fergus had struck a deal to buy out Pugh Marina’s owners and had assembled 19.6 acres that included the Walker land, which the city would convey to Fergus. Pointe Blue was to have a mix of 434 lake-front condominiums, a marina, restaurants, shops, offices and 90 apartments on the west side of Michigan Boulevard.

However, the deal never fully came together, the housing market wilted, the Great Recession began and financing dried up. In January 2008, KeyBridge and the city jointly announced that Pointe Blue was dead.

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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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