December 14, 2009

RDA passes option for West Racine grocery store, restaurant and gas station

A crowd packed Monday's Redevelopment Authority meeting to see what would happen with Tom Tousis's request for an option to build a grocery store, restaurant and gas station in West Racine. His request passed on a unanimous voice vote. So many people packed the committee room Mayor John Dickert, left-foreground, stood for the discussion and vote.

A proposed grocery store in West Racine cleared the first of several hurdles Monday evening.

The Redevelopment Authority voted unanimously to grant developer Tom Tousis an option on land at the corner of Washington Avenue and West Boulevard to build the grocery store, along with a restaurant and gas pumps.

Tousis's request now heads to the full City Council on Jan. 5 for final approval on the option. It's a positive step forward for Tousis, but the approval process is far from over.

If the City Council finalizes the option, the city's Access Corridor Review committee and Plan Commission will review the specifics of Tousis's proposal. Both committees will take a close look at the project's layout, traffic impact and the overall fit in West Racine.

Monday's meeting went relatively smoothly for a project that's proven controversial in recent months. The meeting opened with RDA member Pete Karas asking the proceeding be held in open session. No one objected and the meeting proceeded with the understanding that it could go into a closed session, if needed.

Tousis and developer Ray Leffler sat at the table along with the RDA members and City Development Director Brian O'Connell. Mayor John Dickert, Aldermen Terry McCarthy, Aron Wisneski, Sandy Weidner and Mike Shields watched in the audience. Alderman Jim Spangenberg sits on the RDA.

There was little debate on the proposal and once Karas made a motion to accept Tousis' option, with Scott Terry seconding, the proposal passed on a unanimous voice vote with no further discussion.

Despite taking a step forward, Tousis's proposal is far from finalized. Along with passing city committee and the City Council, it needs to come back before the RDA to finalize a developer's agreement. Tousis must also secure a liquor license and financing for the $5 million project.

The option approved Monday by the RDA would sell RDA-owned land at Washington Avenue and West Boulevard to Tousis for $250,000. Tousis would receive $50,000 of mortgage relief every year for five years - or $250,000 - if he creates at least 24 jobs.

Leffler, a prominent local developer who is working with Tousis, said the project would create more than 24 jobs.

"We want to over-deliver, which is what our intention is," Leffler told the RDA.


  1. I live just two blocks from this corner. I have been a supporter of it since day one. I can only hope that the next committees move it along faster.

  2. Good luck to Tom and all those that have worked so hard to make this a reality!

  3. May Tom live in interesting times

  4. "Good luck to Tom and all those that have worked so hard to make this a reality" WTF. This isn't someone giving out coats and homes to the poor, this is a man trying to make money. It is good to see that the development is moving forward, and I hope that all works out for both sides of the issue.

  5. $250,000 for 24 jobs

    Might be worth it, but that's not chump change.

    American Tire got $40,000 for 88 jobs, but requires Racine residents.

    As a tool for attracting business, I lean towards liking the $250k approach better because at least it is tied to job creation. What is the projected pay for these 24 jobs? That's a key consideration.

  6. Let me get this right. All the members on the RDA voted "YES"? What did Spanky have a revelation from God, or is he once again going to say that someone made threats to him and his family!

    The picture at the top of the article proves what myself and 80,000 others from Racine thought, bring a camera and our Realtor Mayor will follow! Is that considered "baiting" in Wisconsin?

  7. Keep it going.

  8. "24 jobs"

    Isn't that 12 full-time jobs and 12 part-time jobs.

  9. Was Gary Becker the, look at the guy in the striped shirt:)

  10. Actually, Tom has stated that it will be at least 24 full-time jobs. My guess is, most will probably be minimum wage, plus the upper wage for managers.

    I totally disagree with giving the land away. I think the taxpayers should realize at least some of the money back that the property has cost over time (purchase, demolition, maintenance, etc.). If this was a non-profit organization building something or for social services or the like, I could see it. But not for a for-profit business. I'd like to see some money up front coming back to the city, with compensation for Tom laid out in a limited tax cut. But if the city goes through with the $50,000.00 per year (for five years) project to forgive the mortgage, then I say there should be no additional tax incentives.

  11. Where is Jim's People? Still trying to figure out why their fearless leader voted for the project, or are they just waiting for orders on how to proceed next?

  12. I agree with economic development and creating jobs. I also believe there will be costs involved in acheiving those goals.

    Given that though, $250,000 is a whole lot of money to spend on this company for mostly minimum wage type jobs.

    Now we have two situations that have arisen where the city is dishing out money. Both instances were for the same type of low paying jobs.

    These are good incremental gains, but one has to wonder what it will cost to bring in a large player with higher paying jobs.

    What has been done here is set a precedent for some pretty high costs. Again, I'm not against using tax and other policy to help encourage jobs here, but these deals just seem really rich to me for what we're getting in return.

    Are we going to continue to subsidize any and all new business at such high costs for minimum wage jobs? What is the strategy here?

  13. Jim's people12/15/2009 11:00 AM

    It is not ovet yet. You will see in the end that this win was only for show. He will not build his junk store west Racine. Our aldermen will not let this happen.

  14. To: Jim's People,

    The vote was unanimous. That means, despite all that was said about him, Jim Spangenberg vote for it. Even if it wasn't ideally what he (we)wished for, he must have seen enough good in it to say yes. It is the right vote and it was right for him to push back along the way to that point. The development will likely be better for his efforts and he should be thanked.

  15. "What is the strategy here?"

    Are you blind?? Its to get Becker.. I mean little Garry... I mean Dickert reelected using our tax money. Yes even though min wage jobs will not get someone off AFDC and a great chance to use IMHO undocumented workers that's what The Mayor wants to do. No one will stop him The council is just lap dogs, the voters sheep.
    Be interesting to see what the city will do as more and more move out of little Detroit and more and more working poor move in.

  16. 11:57

    Dickert's main challenge when coming into office was the unemployment rate. As mayor, there are only so many tools available to you to increase employment, with the biggest one being tax incentives.

    Of course he is going to use that method to attract jobs and if it works and Racine is better for it then yes he will get some of the credit and will get re-elected. So what.

    The more relevant point is with respect to the high level of government spending for minimum wage jobs.

    I don't think people would argue too much if these jobs were paying a living wage but they're not. This is potentially the same issue with American Tire.

    It is more about how the money is being strategically spent and on what projects that is worrysome, but with unemployment as high as it is, there is a good argument to be made for the continuation of this type of spending.

    How does this fit in with a longer term vision of Racine though? What are we trying to become and who are we trying to attract? At some point, these minimum wage jobs won't be enough. You need some heavier hitters and given what they just did for these two businesses, it could cost the taxpayers big.

    That's how companies like Johnson's get the great tax deals. You could argue that the benefit of the community far outweighs the cost....but there is still cost. Tax incentives are loss of income for Racine and we have to make sure that loss of income is money spent wisely.

  17. Lets get this thing done ASAP! No more messing around. Good luck Tom.

  18. Does anyone know how much a butcher makes?

    Does anyone know how much a store manage makes?

    Does anyone know how much a produce manager makes?

    Does anyone know how much a head chef makes?

    Does anyone know how much a restaurant manager makes?

    Does anyone know how much a stock room manager makes?

    Does anyone know how much a bookkeeper makes?

  19. If the federal stimulus was creating jobs it would be costing a lot more than this project. We are getting a better deal than anything coming out of Washington.

    Now if RUSD could figure out that we are in a depression and not talk about another spending referendum until at least the economy turns around.

    It seems that RUSD and most of the Mt Pleasant Board have lost touch with reality. They missed the news that there is well over 10% unemployment and that more houses everyday are empty because the former owners have moved out.

    Tom has a project to create jobs. We need jobs before spending more money in taxes.

  20. "We need jobs before spending more money in taxes."

    And yet you spend taxpayer money to get jobs. How does that work?

  21. Does anyone know how much Tom spent on the project so far?

    How long it will take for the slot machines to earn that back assuming he has the full 15?
    If no slot machines and a mark up of only pennies on Gas and nickels on produces, what is the plan to make money?

    Which one(s) of Dickert's Pals will get business from this project?

    How long before the Gas Station goes belly up?

    Will we ever see the E-85 pumps filled?

    How much an nonunion store clerk make?

    How much a undocumented store clerk make?

    Will the waitress at the "family" restaurant wear "Hooter's" type uniforms?

    If any city in the USA has ever brought in Min wage jobs for an recovery?

    If a CNC operator makes $18 an hour how does a $8.00 hr job make up for that?

    How much the total bill for the City be on this?

    Does anyone in the City care?

    Extra credit

    If the Mayor wants to be a Green Mayor how does he defend wanting to sell water from Lake Michigan to Waukasha?
    Why not Vegas?

  22. Anon 1:18,
    How much does Spanky pay for your wit?

    If he says jump do you say how high?

    If he says suck do you say how much?

  23. PeoplePerson12/15/2009 4:54 PM

    All of you naysayers clearly have never tried to open and operate your own business.
    Small business is, and has been, the back bone of this country.
    Some 90 percent of jobs in this country are with companies of 100 employees or less.
    Everyone needs to come together and help these people succeed.
    The more business owners that are successful only stands do reason
    the more successful our city becomes. You go Tom!!!

  24. Mmmmmm....I can smell those gas fumes already.

  25. 5:13 Thats not gas fumes it's your crack pipe burning!

  26. Jimmy Smash!

    Me So Angry!


  27. Come on people! If I were Tom I would have told this city to go fly a banner a long time ago. A man with his own money wants to deal with a dieing city. Tax breaks are fine since he will be putting the land back on the tax roles.
    Look, the bottom line is:
    1. More taxes for the city.
    2. More job opportunities for the neighborhood. (If I see just one person that looks like a illegal alien I will picket in front of the place and I won't be alone).
    3. Convenience for the elderly in the neighborhood.
    4. A restaurant and grocery store the wife and I can walk to.
    5. Last but not least, It is what the MAJORITY of what the PEOPLE want.
    Good Luck Tom

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

  29. Wow, is that the new tactic Jim? Pretty slimy.

  30. It never ceases to amaze me how people who are willing to take a risk, invest in this community and create jobs are attacked.

  31. Jim's People12/16/2009 11:06 AM

    You will see! Have faith in Jim desicions.

  32. Real Debate

    $250,000 seems a little excessive. At what point is this considered welfare?

    According to free market principles, this business should not exist if it cannot afford startup costs. Giving Tousis $250,000 is the nanny state at its worst.

  33. Racine has the second highest unemployment rate in Wisconsin. To have shot down a local businessman who wants to spend his own money to turn a vacant eyesore lot into jobs would have been on the verge of criminal.

    The vote was the right one - if it is to be believed that those on the RDA have the PEOPLE of Racine, and, not their personal interests at heart.

  34. "wants to spend his own money"

    Really, then please do! why the welfare check from the city? How shameless do you have to be?

    If you're not strong enough to start out on your own, then you're not strong enough to exist.

    If this guy's business plan and prospects are so awesome, then why does the city feel the need to cut this man a check? If this is a worthwile endeavor that will earn money, the Tousis shouldn't need the welfare payment to get started. It's called going to the bank and getting a loan like everyone else.

  35. I can't tell you where welfare begins because of all the factors that brings folks to it. I can say where it ends, at least for 24 people and that is a job. I wonder what the cost of 24 people on welfare or unemployment.
    24 unemployment checks (@ $350 a week) times 26 weeks times 24 people equals $218400.00.

  36. 25k a year in tax credits are welfare to turn a vacant lot into jobs?

    Riddle me this - where will the money to build everything come from? It's going to cost at least 5 million to build it.

    Anyone who is against the project is just as clueless as old man Hinsman who would prefer a "fine dining extablishment". Yeah, that would take off! LOL People in Racine who can't even feed their kids would love that idea.

    You should complain about all of the money in "studies" that went on instead of getting the ball rolling.

  37. Good point Annon 3:05

  38. and how many of those 24 jobs will be set aside for Tousis family members and their friends?

    Look at most service stations in the greater Racine area and there are very few that don't have the register manned by a family member at all times.

    I worked in a related industry in which I had to deal with these stations on a regular basis. When the owner/operator wasn't there, it was a brother/cousin/uncle running the place.

  39. antiweasly- It is a grocery store.

  40. Antiwesley, I just thinking the same thing. At Athans and Gibsons, they always had 5-6 family memembers and another 3-4 friends but not always working at the same time. Most of which were paid in cash. However, maybe he has turned a new leaf and is going to start doing things the honest way?

  41. "Under the proposal, one-fifth of the mortgage would be returned each year if Tousis creates and maintains 12 full-time jobs and 12 part-time jobs. All of the workers would live in the city of Racine, according to the proposal."

    Racine Post Dec 2, 2009

  42. I'd like to see the lawsuilts with the Contractors and Designer that built the Douglas location be settled before this moved forward.

  43. Mitch is that you?

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