A consultant hired to study West Racine's retail market said Tuesday night the gas station Tom Tousis wants to build as part of his $5 million development would be OK on the vacant lot at Washington Avenue and West Boulevard.
Kennedy Smith, of the Arlington, Va.-based Clue Group, told the West Racine Business Improvement District said gas pumps would work if they are not located on Washington Avenue, according to people at the meeting.
"She doesn't have a problem with a gas station in the district," one person at the meeting said.
Alderman Terry McCarthy, who was at the meeting, said Smith was more concerned about the look of Tousis's gas station than there being a gas station. "It needs to fit into an urban environment," McCarthy said, paraphrasing Smith's conclusions.
Tousis took steps in that direction recently when he released drawings of a proposed gas station canopy for the site that would resemble a train depot.
Overall, Smith's report was good news for Tom Tousis, who is trying to build a $5 million grocery store, restaurant, gas station and bank. Tousis' proposal has met opposition from people opposed to the gas station.
But Smith's recommendations may require changes to Tousis's proposal. She recommended the main buildings run along Washington Avenue with gas pumps located behind the buildings.
"Pulling (the buildings) to the street is critical," the person at the meeting said.
Tousis' team has said in the past it's not possible to build entirely along Washington Avenue because of utility easements that run through the property.
That aside, a supporter of Tousis' project said Smith's report supported their contention that the grocery store, restaurant, gas station and bank would bring foot and car traffic to West Racine that would benefit all surrounding businesses. The key, though, is the development has to built and maintained at a high level.
"It would be a perfect fit as long as it was done right," they said, paraphrasing Smith's report. "It can't be a Kwik-E Mart kind of thing. It has to look completely different from the norm for the gas station you usually see in Racine."
Smith's retail market report for West Racine will be available in two to three weeks. She was also hired by the Racine County Economic Development Corporation to study business districts in Caledonia, Waterford and Union Grove.
The four studies cost $56,900. RCEDC contributed $37,500 and the participating municipalities each contributed $4,850.