RACINE — Linea Anthony, Chairman of the Uptown Business Improvement District board, was probably one of the first to realize the Pass-Thru Park was open because she’ll pass through it every workday.
The Pass-Thru Park, 1516 Washington Ave. connects a parking lot on the north side of Washington to the sidewalk in front of Anthony’s business, Racine Merchandise Mart, 1512 Washington Ave.
“I walk through the park and I come up to my shop,” said Anthony. “It’s wonderful.”
The Uptown BID approached the city about the project, offering to cover fees acquired in the proposal stages of the project and to handle snow removal at the site. In the 2018 Capital Improvements budget, $65,000 was set aside for the design. In April 2019, the City Council approved a bid of $209,500 from A.W. Oakes & Sons for the construction.
More than a walkway
Anthony pointed out that the park could have been as simple as some concrete steps — almost anything would have been better than the overgrown hole in the ground where a foreclosed property had been torn down.
But the BID wanted to make lemonade out of lemons, so they hired a landscape architect to help design a green, shared public space.
“We were in need to having this type of garden, activity center,” said Anthony.
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The meandering walkway with benches, surrounded by native plants is only the beginning, according to Anthony — they plan to add murals and other public art to the space and add a map of Uptown to the signboard on Washington Avenue.
Sign of things to come?
In addition to giving Uptownians a place to recharge and remind everyone there is a parking lot north of Washington Avenue (the entrance is west of Uptown China, 1530 Washington Ave.), Anthony said the project sends a signal to the wider community about Uptown’s potential.
Anthony has been a vocal advocate of the pending redevelopment of the Ajax Industrial site on the 1500 block of Clark Street and other projects coming down the pipeline. She sees the Pass-Thru Park as a signal that the city and community are invested in revitalizing Uptown.
“It raises the awareness that Uptown is a thriving, changing neighborhood full of opportunity,” said Anthony. “I think it also paves the way for getting other projects done.”
Yolonda Blair, owner of Yogi’s Pud’n at 1505 Washington Ave., has lived and operated out of the Uptown neighborhood for five years and said she’s seeing a lot more interest and activity.
“I know I’ve talked to a lot of people interested in going to Uptown,” said Blair. “Lot of people looking for spaces.”
One told her he was interested in 1518 Washington Ave., a lot with multiple store fronts and upstairs apartments currently owned by Racine County and next door to Pass-Thru Park.
“If they start having more business its going to be really needed,” said Blair. “Hopefully (the park) will be a good thing and it’ll be a turnaround around here.”