Maybe the third time will be the charm for the old Ajax Industrial complex in Racine’s Uptown area. Cardinal Capital Management of West Allis last week got an initial endorsement from the Redevelopment Authority of Racine to proceed with planning for an $18 million plan to create 112 units of “workforce housing” on the old industrial site.
Unlike two previous plans that envisioned rehabbing existing buildings with preservation credits, the Cardinal proposal would raze most of the buildings, sparing only the historic Pabst tavern at the corner of Clark and 16th streets and one older building as a bow to the past. And what a past it was. According to Wisconsin Historical Society records, the Ajax Plant was the last existing building of the Walker Manufacturing Co., which thrust Racine into the forefront of Wisconsin’s automobile manufacturing industry.
The Ajax Plant turned out mufflers, jacks and tires during its heyday and was where “the first Walker Silencer, an innovative automobile muffler design (that featured louvers) was invented and produced ... (and) cemented Walker’s reputation as a leader in muffler production,” according to the historical society. The bulk of the Walker complex was demolished 18 years ago, but it would be good to see a new life for the old plant that would once again serve — this time as housing — area workers, giving a bow to the past and a purpose for the future.
Now that’s March Madness. Perhaps Wisconsin fans got a little too comfy cheering on state teams each spring in the NCAA basketball tournament. So it was a rude realization to see that the Badgers weren’t headed to the Big Dance this year — ending a run of 19 years, including some memorable Final Four appearances. The basketball Badgers made a run at the end — with a 4-2 finish with close loses only to No. 2-ranked Michigan State.
UW-Green Bay, which has also made the tourney in recent years, was out of the mix and that leaves only Marquette University, which is on the bubble and kept its hopes alive with a Big East Tournament win over DePaul Wednesday and needed a win against Villanova last night to have even a chance of selection. Otherwise, Wisconsin fans will have nothing to cheer about. Everybody out of the pool.
Now that’s growing pains. The Village of Caledonia, fresh off the dedication of its new $3.5 million Village Hall south of Crawford Park last summer, was moving ahead with plans to build a new Highway Department garage and offices on the old hall site on Nicholson Road this week when it got the unwelcome news that — instead of the $2.5 million cost the village had budgeted — the price tag would be $3.5 million, according to revised estimates from the architect and construction company.
Not only that, the new estimate does not include razing existing the existing building but would use some of the basic structure of the old Village Hall. Presumably that would be without the leaks and mold problems that had plagued the old hall. Plus — plus — the contractor warned that President Donald Trump’s proposed steel and aluminum tariffs could jack the price even higher.
The Village Board moved to move forward with the garage project, but not without some grumbling. Village President Jim Dobbs noted the village had already committed to major projects to support the Foxconn development — which includes a payment of $4 million to Mount Pleasant this summer and was planning on spending $4 million on a new police station. “I think we need to get a good handle on where all this money is going to come from,” Dobbs said. “It’s going to pay for itself eventually, but it’s all hitting very quickly.” Indeed. For historical reference, the old Village/Town Hall at 4922 Nicholson Road was built in 1952. It cost $50,000.