Tom Tousis' loss may be urban gardeners' gain.
His plans for a West Racine grocery store, restaurant and gas station now include an urban garden along Grove Avenue. The garden was added to the plan after Tousis shrunk the size of his buildings to accommodate a utility pipe that runs through the property.
While the utility pipe reduced the estimated cost of the project from $5.2 million to $4.2 million, it led to some interesting change in the building's style and the project's overall feel. The proposed buildings are modeled after the Milwaukee Public Market and similar public markets in Seattle and Toronto. They combine a historic feel with a modern look to create a unique structure Tousis hopes will become a hub for the community.
"This is the way grocery stores used to be," said Zak Williams, a spokesman for Tousis. "People can come here to the grocery store, eat at the restaurant, fill up their car and have an opportunity to have a community garden."
Other unique features of the project include a stylized copper canopy for the gas station modeled after a train depot, space for the West Racine Farmers Market, the latest lighting technology from Ruud Lighting and a large mural along Grove Avenue reminiscent of the advertising on the side of historic brick buildings.
"The building lends itself to the architecturally consistent nature of the neighborhood," Williams said.
An artist's rendering of the copper canopy Tom Tousis is considering for his
development at Washington Avenue and West Boulevard in West Racine.
The new design marks a turning point for Tousis's controversial project, which drew objections for being a gas station despite also bringing a grocery store and sit-down restaurant to West Racine. Tousis eventually secured an option to build on the site, but then nearly backed out of the deal after questions arose over a utility pipe on the property that forced Tousis to rework the proposal.
His new building is about 14,500 square feet with 7,200 square feet for the grocery store, 2,000 square feet for a 100-seat restaurant and another 5,200 square feet for a second story above the grocery store. The original plans called for a 10,000-square-foot grocery store and a 3,000-square-foot restaurant.
The community garden would be about 7,500 square feet with water available to the plots, Williams said Tousis is working with Patti Nagai at the UW-Extension to run the garden.
The proposed site plan for the "Washington Market" at Washington Avenue and West Boulevard in West Racine. The grocery store and restaurant are located at Washington and Grove avenues, with the community garden just south along Grove. The gas pumps are located east of the building, and a 56-car parking lot is south of the gas pumps.
While the garden space is designated for potential future construction, Williams said there are "absolutely no plans" to build on the site in the near future.
The proposal heads to the city's Access Corridor Design Review Committee on Thursday. Alderman Jim Spangenberg, an outspoken critic of Tousis' plans, sits on the committee, which is chaired by Chief Building Inspector Rick Heller. Other members of the commission include Aldermen David Maack, Jim Kaplan and Michael Shields, David Namowicz, Linea Anthony, Randy Aukland, Steve Joosten, Frank Smith, Kelly Jensen, Mitch Wemmert and Mark Madsen.
While the committee will consider the proposal, it does not have definitive say over the project. It serves as an advisory committee to the Plan Commission, which could take up the plan as early as March 31.