Three aldermen and two development officials organized a "work group"of eight or nine West Racine residents and business owners (13-14 people in all) to discuss development at the corner of Washington Ave. and West Blvd.
The group quietly met a few times in recent weeks to collect ideas on the property and put together a formal recommendation to the city's Redevelopment Authority, which owns the vacant land. The group originated in response to a proposal to build a 55-unit senior housing development on the site. Neighbors strongly opposed the idea and the project was rejected by the City Council.
Officials hoped to avoid a similar scenario by gathering public input and putting it into a request for proposal for the site that would specifically rule out certain businesses (like a payday loan).
Work group members included: Aldermen Jim Spangenberg, Terry McCarthy and Aron Wisneski, as well as City Development Director Brian O'Connell and Racine County Economic Development Corp's Kristin Niemiec. There was no formal chair of the work group.
The group's work comes at a time when Racine businessman Tom Tousis is ready to propose building a grocery store, restaurant and gas station on the site, as well as maintaining the existing farmer's market. Some officials oppose a gas station on the site.
A draft set of recommendations for the site was sent to RacinePost Thursday, but we were told the list did not reflect the recommendations the group would make to the RDA. The list we acquired, which originated at the meeting, included a list of deed restrictions on the property and a requirement that any development maintain the farmer's market.
The group agreed to scale back the restrictions, in part, because they asked Tousis to hold off on his proposal until after it finalized its recommendations. Allowing the restrictions to go forward ran the risk of the city seeing Tousis' plans, asking him to delay them, and then passing legislation that would, essentially, kill what he hopes to build. We're attempting to obtain the revised list of recommendations from the City Development Department.
Work group members are planning a public meeting (the meetings so far have not been noticed) later this month to unveil the recommendations and solicit public input.