June 16, 2009

Housing Authority 'surprised' by negative reaction to Sixth Street plan

314 Sixth St., built in 1886

It's clear where Downtown business owners stand on the Housing Authority of Racine County's proposal to convert an historic Sixth Street building into low-income apartments.

"Who's in favor of this thing?" Monte Osterman asked a group of about 30 business owners Tuesday during a Downtown Connections meeting.

No one said a word.

Linda Ring Weber, executive director of the Housing Authority, said she was stunned by the reaction to the idea of renovating the former YMCA and Red Cross Building at 314-324 Sixth St.

"Surprised is such an understatement," Weber said. "There has to be some misunderstanding."

At issue is the need, or desire, for low-income housing on Sixth Street. Devin Sutherland, executive director of Downtown Racine Corp., is leading the opposition to the proposal. He said Sixth Street, or really anywhere Downtown, isn't a good site for additional low-income housing.

"It's market-rate apartments we don't have enough of," Sutherland said.

But Weber said she has a five-year waiting list for people seeking affordable housing from her agency. People who qualify for her program pay 30 percent of their income for rent - well under the low-income housing rates in places like the Arcade Apartments or Belle Harbor Apartments in Downtown.

Weber said the Housing Authority has received an overwhelmingly negative reaction to the proposal. "Had we known, this would not have been a place I would have pursued," she said.

But the Housing Authority has an option to purchase the building for $425,000 and an architect is drawing up plans, she said.

Money is a concern. The 1886 Queen Anne-style building was built as the Racine branch of the YMCA. Its ground floor is now home to the Sixth Street Theatre, but its second and third floors have been vacant for years. Renovating the upper floors into apartments and offices for the Housing Authority, now located at 837 Main St., could be too expensive.

But Weber was optimistic. Her agency's plan is to revive an historic building that's been largely ignored over the years. The Housing Authority even intends to retain a large, open ballroom on the second floor to serve as their offices.

"Many private developers would divide (the ballroom) into offices," she said.

Weber and the Downtown business owners had a missed connection on Tuesday morning. The Downtown Connections group had scheduled Weber to speak, but Weber said she'd only offered to address the group when she had information to share. Since they're still waiting for the architect's report, she didn't feel she had much to say about the project. She said she hopes to meet with the business owners in a few weeks.

It'll be a tough crowd.

The group is already lobbying city officials, with some success, to oppose the project.

"I don't feel any support for this at City Hall," Sutherland said.

But the opposition may not matter. Since city zoning is set up to favor residential developments there's little the city can do to oppose the development. The major obstacle for the project could be the Housing Authority's own charter, which requires city approval for low-income housing developments.

But what city approval means, and how much of an obstacle the requirement is, remains to be seen. What also remains to be seen is the Housing Authority's plans to breathe life into a dormant -- aside from the Sixth Street Theatre -- building in need of restoration.

"This should be so welcome," Weber said. "We're preserving an historic building."


  1. Preserving a historic building? Maybe for a month or two until the animals rip it apart like they do every other housing given to them. We will never attract the people we need to make Racine flourish by catering to the gutter trash.

  2. Who the Hell is Monte Ostermann? Instead of promoting his own selfish agenda he should be promoting diversity. The only time that is a concern is when it benefits him. Get a life!! This is the biggest bunch of hypocrits in this city. I believe this is the opportunity of the NAACP to get involved and fight the racist innuendos of the Downtown Assoc. Prepare to fight on your racist agenda. I thought Gary Becker was gone but I see his mentality is alive and well. Ms Weber continue your project because there will be a fight if this racism continues.

  3. I hate racist BS claims, HOWEVER, I believe Anon 5:55 is spot on with this one.

    The white business owners are shaking in their boots right now.

    This venture will fail due to the fact that Osterman and Mayor Dickert are best friends.

    Dickert might be viewed as a racist when all is said and done, perhaps unfairly, perhaps not.

    This will be very interesting.

    By the way, I am a White male.

  4. I am not friend of the DRC, on this they and Monty are right on.
    We need no more low income (slums) in Racine. IHHO this would a nail in the coffin of 6th St.
    5:55 Monte is a man who casre a lot about downtown Racine and the entire City.
    Guess I will be finding out who hires and fires the Director and go after her job.

    THis plans sucks

  5. Unbelievable!

    Downtown and 6th Street are finally coming around and becoming a great destination & the Housing Authority is trying to ruin what has been accomplished thus far.

    I'm really surprised the ultra useless RCEDC isn't involved.

  6. To Linda Webber, if you have a five year waiting list of clients in need of housing, why not spend the $2 million on housing them now instead of spending it on costly historic preservation? You already have an office and there is an ample supply of low income housing in Racine. As such, the millions needed to rehab the building is money that could be used now to help your clients. Why not stick to your mission of helping the poor instead of being in the building preservation business?

  7. That's because IMHO someone put her up to it. Linda Webber ios being used IMHO by others.

  8. The NAACP in this town is politically impotent. They will accomplish nothing.

  9. Emily Hill's building has been empty for years. This is not to the advantage of downtown business owners of which I am one.

    The offices of the development will be in the building and that will make a big difference in how tenants behave and care for the property.

    I want to see more people living downtown, and not just middle class white people. I don't know if this is the best idea, but the fervent opposition strikes me as at best elitist and at worst racist.

  10. If I owned a business in Downtown I'd care about it also Colt.

    If he didn't own one, you wouldn't hear a peep out of Monty.

    You've turned into a closet Dickert fan. Take back all the nasty stuff you said about him, be a man.

  11. Racist?
    Please, do any of you ignorant morons hiding behind that cloak even know what your talking about?
    Does anyone know that emotionally disturbed, crack addicted prostitute who wanders downtown and asks everyone for money? You have all seen her, she even went up to the band while they were playing at Second Saturday and asked for money. She is a part of a group home downtown.
    The Red Cross building is being considered for people with those kinds of disabilities. THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH RACE!!!!
    6th st does not need mentally disabled or drug addicted residents. If that make me a racist, so be it.

  12. 10:48

    I Colt take back any and all statements I may have made about The Mayor of Racine Joghn Dickert and ask him and all other Dicket supporters to accept my apologies.

    Thank you 10:48 for calling me out on this. Colt needs to say when he is wrong.

    I am sure I will not agree on everything Dickert does but so far he had been doing a fantasic job.

    Now how can I get him to lead the public with pitchforks to RCEDC?

  13. Today's journal times editorial comments on how "those warehouses for the poor isolated the poor and are blamed for breeding a culture of crime." And those big projects are being turned into rubble because society realized they didn't work."
    Funny how a ten unit project meets with such furer and a 96 unit complex behind Sams club, (out of sight, out of mind), gets a nod and a wink blessing from the city?

  14. Why don't the 6th Street business owners purchase the building as a group and develop the building into something they want.

  15. Seems like a lot of people are jumping to conclusions before knowing all the facts. As a downtown business owner, I am concerned about what happens downtown but in no way am I going to attack a project before knowing specifics. We need to see what is being proposed in detail, once that is available we will form our own position. One other point, the DRC does not speak for all Downtown businesses we are indedpendent and do not necessarily agree with their position, in fact we probably disagree more often than not.

  16. From the Racine Housing Authority web site:

    State of Wisconsin law stipulates that no housing project can be undertaken by a County Housing Authority within a City, town, or village without the consent of such city, town or village.

    This would suggest that elected city officials could stop this project by voting against it.

  17. With all of the housing inventory on the market for prices that go for a song (or a steal), why not use the funds to purchase these properties ... rehab them (if necessary) ... and provide a bit of dignity to the folks needing low-cost housing by providing real homes they can be proud of and, hopefully, care for ... instead of herding them into a sardine can?

  18. When we first moved here we looked at the Arcade apts. Supposedly low income. We are not on section 8. The rents were jacked way up, so paying even 30% was hard. The only people who could afford this type of low income housing are those who are on section 8. Not the low level employee just starting out. I agree with Denis. It makes no sense. Use the money to put people in all our already numerous vacant properties, several on every block. When do we need to show up to fight this?

  19. One more question is anyone coordinating efforts between all these "helpful" groups? It seems like we are tripping and stepping all over each other. My project tears up the next guys plans. Are we getting anywhere this way? How bout a directory or something to coordinate and avoid duplication and destruction.

  20. Surprised? We are looking for jobs and homeowners. We are not looking to attract more people who do not work. They are a drain on our society. black, white, or majenta.

  21. We will see how impotent the NAACP is. I believe that this city will go nowhere with mentality of the people. Everytime someone wants to do anything in the downtown area you have this private organization dictating what goes on. If a fight is what it takes, that's exactly what will take place. You can not continue these practices and expect federal funds and benefits.

  22. Hey, Anon 3:44 AM, that's not an "emotionally disturbed, crack addicted prostitute who wanders downtown and asks everyone for money" - that's ME!

  23. Sorry Zoltar, my bad!

  24. I believe that there are alot of confused people in this city and the people of color need to rise up against these people that say they Stand for minority concerns as long as they stay in thier place. Shame on you DRC, I believe you have really stuck your face in it one too many times. Explain yourself as to the reason why this project is not appropriate for the downtown area. REDLINING and GENTRIFICATION?????? It is not just happeniing in the Downtown, but all over town. Since the NAACP is impotent, I think we will make a call to the justice department and HUD to speak to the discriminatory nature of the way things are done in this city. DO NOT KILL THE MESSENGER. Let's see if the game is a foot!!!!

  25. 6:01

    Please stop drinking HUD nor Justice could care less about this issue.
    The NAACP in Racine with their leadership is a joke and so I expect them to pontificate on this issue.
    That way when they lose they can blame whom ever, my thought blame Bush. I would hope that using the cash to buy one of the 600 + homes in foreclosure and fixing them up would be a better idea.

    I should quit drinking too I can not believe I am on the same side as the DRC.
    Downtown Racine does not need the thugs and gangs that far too offend show up with low income housing

  26. Downtown Denizen6/17/2009 10:38 PM

    It's funny how racist some of these people defending the low-income housing are. They accuse anyone against it as being racist, when in fact they are the ones being racist. They put forth the notion that only minorities encompass the low-income level. There are a significant number of whites that fit the low-income catagory as well. Get off the racist kick, it's not a racist issue.

    The real problem, IMHO, is that the city is at odds with itself. Here they have been trying to build up 6th Street into an upscale art district with upscale cafes, restaurants and clubs. Then they want to turn around and turn the upper stories of these buildings into low-income tenements. Where is the sense in this?

    I know we're not suppose to stereotype, but come on! Low income neighborhoods breed crime. Not all people who are low-income are criminals, but quite often their offspring are. Theft, mugging, burglary, etc. is often the only way these young people, especailly gangbangers, can get what they want. They often deal drugs right out on the street. Blacks do it, Latinos do it and whites do it. So go ahead city council, in you lack of wisdom, go ahead and destroy what you've been trying to build up.

  27. I just wanted to mention what problems Kenosha has had over the years due to the Dayton Hotel being located downtown. Those folks wander the streets, not necessarily begging for money, but generally just talking to themselves. It was not the only reason for the collapse of downtown (shutting the streets to car traffic did not help, either), but it certainly contributed to the decline.

    I am not saying that folks in this housing would be mentally challenged. I am saying that if you house a hundred low income people in a business area for "upscale" clients, you will not retain enough of those clients to stay in business. The businesses that move in when those move out will cater to the clients who live in the housing across the street (one of the few businesses that survived downtown Kenosha was the 3 Coins restaurant that catered to the residents of the Hotel.) If this is Racine's plan for downtown, then let's move forward knowing what will occur.

  28. I am surprised that the majority of posters are using their crystal ball to forecast the end results of this proposal. I am not a big believer in crystal balling. Lets wait until the proposal is presented before passing judgement. To compare this to downtown Kenosha is not fair. Kenosha has many other problems the first and foremost is a lack of a comprehensive forward looking plan along with infrastructure problems that been ignored for far too long.

  29. "Surprised?"

    more like "Surprise!! another bad idea!!"

    Riverbend lofts, just up the street, has been sitting with multiple vancancies. Why? Virtually no one wants to live in that neighborhood. Why invest 100's of thousands of dollar into a complex that will only degrade and devalue over time. Adding low income housing nearby will only grease the slides. Everyone should have the right to affordable housing, but my property values should not decrease as a result of it.
    On a side note, take a drive through the lower income communities in Racine and count how many satellite dishes are on the roofs. The count the number of SUV's and cars with big $$ stereos and big Rims parked in the driveway or illegally on the street.
    Some people are low income by choice, and it seems like they are the ones who get the most handouts. Working families who are victims of the economy deserve the assistance and support, not the carreer criminals and babymakers.
    Active evaluation of the housing applicants is in order!!!

  30. I am an African American who lives on 6th in the Riverbend lofts. I am completely against this idea. The downtown has a chance to be great which would be good for me because my condo would go up in value. Mitchell Wagon had "affordable housing" and they trashed the place. Racine has a reputation from Milwaukee to Chicago as being a welfare city. If this goes through you can forget about losing that tag. I'm black and I worked hard to get what I have. How does affordable housing help me? I don't need handouts. I just want to live some place where I can walk downtown, but why would I do that with a Cabrini Green style building there. I work hard to stay out of the ghetto and you want to make it so I'll be surrounded by it on all sides. Create oppurtunites for people to elevate themselves, not stupid liberal pet projects so you can feel good about yourself.

  31. If someone can give me ONE example of where low cost housing produced something useful and not a strain on the rest of society I may change my mind. And all this talk about the NAACP makes me laugh! Instead of trying to help fellow blacks achieve the american dream, it's mission has been to turn us into handout demanding whinners! GETTING STACKED LIKE SARDINES IN SUBSTANDARD HOUSING IS NOT AN ACCOMPLISHMENT!!!!! It most certainly is not what MLK died for, although we've made sure there are plenty of low cost housing found on streets that bear his name, haven't we?

    Aim higher. Demand better of others and yourselves.

  32. Urban Pioneer7/06/2009 6:26 PM

    Great Post Stan. As a Downtown resident and Business owner, I look forward to working with Monte, Alderman Coe, and the Mayor and others to block this from being converted. I suspect the ideas is already on life support..but we must keep the heat on.