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Uptown theater

The Uptown Theater, in the 1400 block of Washington Avenue, has been closed for years. City officials are proposing to renovate it.

RACINE — The Uptown Racine neighborhood has struggled to maintain business, but a new proposal in the 2018 capital improvement plan might breathe some life into the neighborhood.

The proposal is looking to turn the old Uptown theater into a performing arts center and it asks for $75,000 to perform a feasibility study and $50,000 to perform market analysis in 2019. That money would get taken out of the intergovernmental revenue sharing fund.

The proposal also included $10 million to be used in 2021 for property purchase and construction. The city would use $5 million of the TID bond and $5 million from private development to fund the project.

Racine City Administrator Jim Palenick said it could make a huge difference in the area if the theater on the 1400 block of Washington Avenue was revitalized.

“If the city can come forward with a very strong start to this project, can the private sector make this happen,” Palenick said, adding the city has had discussions with people in Uptown and thinks that this project can “create some vision and get something done on a pretty solid plan that’s been out there for a while.”

Alderman Sandy Weidner, mayoral candidate, said the plan “doesn’t sound like a bad idea to me at all, but I’d like to know more about it.”

“I do think it would be a good thing, but I would need to hear more from the director of city development on what the expectation is from the feasibility study and market analysis,” Weidner said. “I’d also like to know if we’d done one in the past.”

Weidner said on taking the money out of the intergovernmental revenue sharing fund: “that’s going to depend on the health of that particular fund to know if we could take $125,000 out of there. There’s a lot of other commitments being proposed to come out of the intergovernmental fund.”

State Rep. Cory Mason, mayoral candidate, also echoed the same sentiments about wanting to know more about the project.

“I think Uptown needs something transformative to help bring it back … revitalizing Uptown has been a priority for the city and should be a priority for the next mayor,” Mason said. “Whether or not this project is the best way to revitalize Uptown is still unclear to me… I’d like to hear what the community has to say about it.”

Mason said it’s very early in the process for this project and would like to have more input from different members of the community.

“I think a mistake that was made with the arena was there wasn’t enough done to gauge community support for the project,” Mason said. “For me the first thing I want to do is gauge not just the feasibility of a project like that, but also the community support for it.”

Yesenia Alashi, manager at Furniture Warehouse, 1510 Washington Ave., said anything new to the area would be an improvement.

“This area is pretty dead now … a lot of stores have closed down or they don’t have a lot going on in this uptown area,” Alashi said. “It would be nice to get something newer something fresh in this area. It might boost this area a little bit more, especially a theater.”

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Reporter

Ricardo Torres covers federal, state and Racine County politics along with the Village of Mount Pleasant. He bleeds Wisconsin sports teams.

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