June 4, 2009

Dollar store gets a second vote of confidence from city committee

The City Council will get another chance to approve a new dollar store on Washington Avenue.

The city’s Redevelopment Authority voted unanimously Wednesday night to re-recommend support for a roughly 14,000-square-foot development anchored by Family Dollar at 1130 Washington Ave. (See our previous story for more details on the development.)

The council had sent the proposal back to the RDA after Alderman Jeff Coe raised questions about the development. The site, the former home of Schaefer Pontiac, sits in Coe’s district.

During its regularly scheduled Wednesday meeting, the RDA initially seemed to favor starting the development process over. Coe, Alderman Michael Shields and the owner of Puma Cycles, located across the street from the development site, all were against the proposed dollar store.

But a strong argument from Kristin Niemiec, of the Racine County Economic Development Council, and Linea Anthony, of the Uptown Business Improvement District, seemed to reinvigorate support for the dollar store development proposed by Abdo Markethouse of Minneapolis.

Niemiec argued the city had issued two requests for proposals for 1130 Washington Ave. already. Sending out a third RFP could turn away Abdo and leave the city with fewer options for the site, she said. “My hunch is we’re going to lose them,” Niemiec said.

She also noted this would be the first new construction in the Uptown area in several years, and the developer is using their own money to pay for the new construction. The development is expected to be assessed at over $1 million.

“Macy’s isn’t coming,” she said. “I hate to break it to the Uptown folk, but it’s not coming.”

“How many times are we going to be able to do this?” she asked. “… this ideal development that doesn’t take a subsidy and everyone wants doesn’t exist. There’s always going to be someone who’s unhappy.”

Niemiec, whose frustration showed through, poked fun at herself. She called herself the “crazy RCEDC woman trying to railroad everything” through the council.

Railroading or not, the RDA listened. The breakthrough compromise came when the RDA agreed to talk to Abdo Markethouse about including groceries or a deli inside the Family Dollar store to serve as a resource for the surrounding neighborhood.

Coe said he would support the development if it included the grocery component. Shields raised questions about how, exactly, the city would convince or require the developer to add those elements.

City Development Director Brian O’Connell said the project had a lengthy review process that would give city officials opportunities to influence the design. But he also noted the Common Council’s vote in two weeks, technically to give Abdo Markethouse a 90-day option on buying the land at 1130 Washington Ave. for $70,000, would lock in the site’s general use. For example, a city committee couldn’t force the developer to abandon the dollar store.

Underlying approval of the development was the impact new construction could have on the entire Uptown area.

Anthony noted the $1 million+ development would lie within the Uptown BID and generate money for the group, which works to support Uptown businesses. The development also lies within the Uptown tax incremental finance district that’s being used to improve buildings in Uptown.

“Trader Joe’s is not coming here,” Anthony said. “We can’t even get a Starbuck’s in Downtown Racine. This is a lot of tax revenue, a lot of BID money that can be used for something down the road.”

Alderman Jim Spangenberg, who sits on the RDA, also noted the city has to be careful about how it works with developers. It put out RFPs and got responses. If it’s constantly turning people away, it could give the city a reputation as being hard to work with.

In the case of 1130 Washington Ave., getting too picky could result in an empty lot for the “next 20 years,” Spangenberg said.

Coe hinted at a possible competing use for the site. He said the developer interested in building a gas station had talked about adding space for a small grocery store and working with neighboring businesses to help them expand.

The RDA approved a gas station for the site the first time around, but had to seek new proposals after the first deal fell through. Shields asked what changed from the first time when the RDA voted for a gas station and the second time it voted for the dollar store.

John Crimmings, chairman of the RDA, said input from Uptown business owners convinced the committee to approve a retail development over a gas station.

Puma, who seemed to oppose the dollar store, said he was hoping the city would work toward a development that would tie together Uptown with Downtown. He didn’t think the dollar store would serve that role.

“We have a golden opportunity,” Puma said. “… I’d hate to see it lost on a rush to judgment.”


  1. Linea Anthony wants a Starbucks in downtown racine. Sure that makes sense. Gotta funnel that money out of the community. Wouldn't want any local businesspersons to have a chance at success with their coffee shops.

  2. Downtown doesn't need a Starbucks. Uptown might be able to sustain a Dollar Coffee Shop, however.

  3. Why can West Racine hold out for a well suited development project but central city neighborhoods have to settle?

  4. Grocery store.

    If this community really cares, then that is what will go in this lot.

    Predominately low-income (often minority) communities rarely have adequate grocery stores. Instead, they have "corner stores" that tend to offer foods high in sugar and low in nutritional value. Foods of this nature are linked to a number of health problems (ie: obesity, diabetes, heart, etc) and that effect is evident in the population of these neighborhoods. The effect extends to behavior and success...there are studies linking diet to ADHD diagnoses, sleep disorders, and more. Bottom line -- the healthier that a person eats, the fewer obstacles (lack of attention, illness) exist in their opportunity to succeed academically and in life. Of course, a grocery store doesn't MAKE a person eat healther, but it can give them the chance to do so.

    At this time, in that particular area, there are several corner stores and a couple of what I would call Super-Corner Stores (the corner store version of Super Walmart). Magic Dollar and Matranga's both offer some food choices that extend beyond typical corner store fare. However, if you have ever walked into these buildings, then you know that they are low quality establishments. Several years ago, Matrangas was even cited for selling a novelty item that they knew could be turned into a crack pipe. Magic Dollar will always have two things well stocked -- meat and LIQUOR. Good luck on everything else.

    My point is this: If you really want to have a positive effect on this neighborhood, then give it something that it needs. Give it something that will have the ripple effect of changing the quality of life for the neighborhood, and, thus, the quality of our city.

    Starbucks would be for the Downtowners driving through on their way to work...and in and out establishment. The Dollar Store concept is built on the mentality that the people of this neighborhood aren't worth more of an investment than typical low-income neighborhood businesses. (You know...dollar stores, check cashing places, liquor stores, corner stores, delis.)

    (For those of you that would argue that the Dollar Store WILL carry food -- it will carry thC same food as corners stores....chips, candy, individual milks, small bags of processed cheese, microwave meals, high sugar cereals, etc.)

  5. Central city should be thankful for whatever they get.
    What business person in their right mind, or a bank, would want to put their own money into central city?
    Keep waiting for Trader Joe's and you will get a used tire store and a motorcycle joint.

  6. Niemiec hate to say this you and RCEDC are THE issue with no good busness comeing to Racine.
    Why did REDC not go to the largest Wind Power event in the world less then 70 MI away? Why is RCEDC not doing anything IMHO to bring green manufacturing jobs to this area?
    The group the New North is bring lots of jobs to Northern WI, why can't you bring them here?
    Why only ideas that do nothing to improve an area like the West Racine Slum Project?

  7. GinaB

    Right on! Colt would love to talk to you about this further and another project that RCEDC and the City seam not to like but would be huge for the King Lincoln area

  8. GinaB, I agree with you completely.

  9. I vote for Green Space/Park at this time.

  10. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/Green-Racine/2009/06/04/The-Lincoln-King-Neighborhood-Garden-and-Farmers-Market-

    Hear the show FIGHT the power!

  11. Yeah Macy's isn't coming.

    In other words what Niemiec is saying is lower your expectations people. That should be Racine's slogan.

  12. Linea Anthony and other uptown BIDness folks should worry about filling up their empty and dilapidated buildings before endorsing other buildings to be built, just to sit empty like DA BANK.

    I'll be calling my alderman Jeff Coe to voice my support for a greenspace/weedlot.

    Family Dllar is 2 miles west on Washinton Ave @ Lathrop, a $2 dollar/ten minute bus ride away or a $2 gallon of gas and 7 minutes away or at worst a half hour walk from 1130 Washinton Ave.

    Another Family Dollar on Rapids Drive @ Mount Pleasant St. Probably also 2 miles away from 1130 Washinton, how many Family Dollars does Racine need ?
    Racines needs an ordinance to keep to many low end retail establishtments from opening so close to each other. ALA the anti pay down loan ordinance.


  13. Racine already has a reputation for being difficult. That is why my buisness will open somewhere else.

  14. 12:08

    Why is every plan for yet another new building when we have so many empty ones a good one?

  15. "Alderman Jim Spangenberg, who sits on the RDA, also noted the city has to be careful about how it works with developers."

    Except when Jim is running for Mayor.

    If you settle for crap, you will get crap.

  16. Here's a thought -- ask the people of the neighborhood what they want.

    And by "ask", I mean get together groups of neighbors and actually talk to them about what would benefit them most. (Not another online survey that limits the number and types of people responding, thus creating skewed results.)

    From the suggestions that have been made (i.e.: Starbucks), it is somewhat evident that people who only pass through this neighborhood to get to work are deciding what would be best. That's a pretty arrogant move, in my opinion.

  17. Ideally we would have a store like the Racine Produce store or an Outpost type store. That would bring others to the neighborhood and be a much needed resource fot the people who live within walking distance. Starbucks What a joke. Why not another art gallery? THey need to make them on edible canvasses.

  18. We do not need another small grocery store with outrageously marked up prices in that neighborhood. We do not need another gas station. We need a full size grocery store. Dickert said it would be a priority to get businesses to come. How many grocery stores has he talked to? Who has he talked to? Do not rush into just filling the space with waste. Be smart and do what you promised. Think longterm.

  19. If you want to put something in there that would draw people from all over town, as well as bring in a lot of out-of-town people and dollars, why not contact the people that were shot down for wanting to open the music concert hall on State Street? They were going to bring in big name local and national groups and were NOT going to sell alcoholic beverages.

    I hear so much talk about opening a grocery store there. That is indeed a great idea, but I don't see any of the major chains lining up to do that. Why not you GinaB? If you're so concerned, why don't YOU take the bull by the horns and open a grocery?

  20. Unless someone has a better place to meet lets talk about this in person say SATURDAY at Blueberries say at 11:00 AM. WE could sit down and plan actions to takes vs The City Department of Development to force something on us. Bonus you can hear yet another b/s plan they have for low income housing.

  21. The case has been made against the dollar store with three within two or three miles of each other why not try something different. The idea of putting a market in this location with local merchants selling produce, bakery items, buthchers, etc would to a degree address the need for a grocery store and be a catalyst for future growth in the area. Look what Milwaukee has done with the Third Ward, Racine could experience the same re-developement.

  22. Racine Public Market, there ya go.

  23. How about a People's Food CoOp, like the one in LaCrosse, WI? They've been going strong for years and it seems that type of business would fit in well with the neighborhood and community there.

    Here's a website for them:

  24. Here is a national group and free manuals on what to do to start a co-op. http://www.ncga.coop/about/coops/gettingstarted
    They call cooperatives a tool for economic development.

  25. People can already grab coffees at Dunn brothers. Starbucks can lease space in any of the empty buildings. I love this co-op idea. Co-ops are future thinking.

  26. Hope to see all of you CO-Op folks at Blueberries at 11:00 Sat. Lets get this going!
    We will have to fight the Depmarment of City Development on this and RCEDC too but its about time someone does.

  27. Thumbs up on the co-op idea. I think this one could draw in support from various angles and be something most people can get behind.

    The city should at least consider this and then present a plan that would tell the citizens under what circumstances something like this could exist and then let us work with them to try to make it happen before rushing into the Dollar Store idea.

    People and government partnering together for a solution that addresses a key need in the area.

    It might not be possible, but is certainly worth consideration and an exploratory look to find out the scope of the effort required.

  28. Gina, greta idea, ask the people what they want.

    Let's see:

    Church's fried Chicken
    Brown's fried chicken
    Famous Dave's Ribs
    Wonder Weave and Accessories
    Gin and Juice LLC

  29. COLT,



  30. What is RCEDC doing? Where are the businesses?

  31. Anon 3:03 Such funny ignorant stereotyping. A forward thinking person would have in mind future. Maybe just maybe people who live in these neighborhoods want a little better than family dollar. The Co-op idea is about time. It goes along with being more environmental aware. The city of Racine and RCEDC should jump all over it and might even take credit for the whole thing. The types of people who want shop at a Co-op want to live near it. That might fill up some of the vacant developments. You have to have stuff within walking distance.

  32. Gina B is on the right track. I live close to uptown and would LOVE a grocery store in that area! It would be very convenient for both local residents and those that work in the area (who could stop to pick up some groceries on their way home). I really like the suggestion from the Puma cycles guy to link uptown and down town.I think some sort of community action is necessary to get some real improvement into uptown.

  33. The good news is the 5 folks met this morning to see what we could do here. The group will now seek freinds and go full out to stop this mess from going further.

    Linea Anthony how did you get put in charge of the Uptown group a deal with RCEDC?
    Linea Anthony all business are not deal with the same way by the group you claim to lead why?
    Linea Anthony why are you not seeking better business to come to the Uptown?
    Linea Anthony I hear your thinking of running for council is this simply a stunt to kick start a run for office?

    Kristin Niemiec why does it seam that your the "head" of so many groups that RCEDC "advices"
    Kristin Niemiec can you tell us why The Uptown likes to give no bid contacts when Racine have Businesses have offered to DONATE services?
    Kristin Niemiec Why has the Uptown Web page not updated more often is it because the whole Art District is DEAD?

  34. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/Storm-Racine/2009/06/06/Economic-Development-in-Racine-and-Racine-County-A-Round-Table-

  35. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  36. No offense... but you could put a Macy's there and there is still no way in on God's Green Earth I would shop in that neighborhood. So yes... take what you can get.

    The Family Dollar may represent one of the better businesses ever to come to that area.