April 2, 2010

City: Tousis' West Racine development may not be worth enough

After a period of relative calm, it appears the city and Tom Tousis are headed for a clash over a proposal to build a grocery store, gas station and restaurant at the corner of West Boulevard and Washington Avenue.

The Redevelopment Authority, which has already approved giving Tousis an option to buy the land, now may reconsider its decision after questions about the project's total assessment were raised.

City Development Director Brian O'Connell issued a memo Thursday saying Tousis' project will have an assessed value of $2.8 million, which is well below the $5 million assessed value the city was hoping for the site. The city needs a $5 million development on the corner to pay off loans it took out to demolish old buildings and create space for redevelopment.

O'Connell's memo was based on a review by City Assessor Ray Anderson. Here's O'Connell's memo:

The request of Tom Tousis for an extension of the deadlines in his option agreement is on the agenda for your meeting on April 7, 2010.

In the time that elapsed between receiving the request from Mr. Tousis and your meeting, Mr. Tousis submitted his development for design review. The application for design review stated that the cost to construct the development is estimated to be $2.8 million. Later reports in the media stated the cost to construct the development would be $4.2 million. The projected value of the development is relevant because the tax incremental district for West Racine (TID-11) anticipates that the property on the south side of Washington Avenue will have an assessed value of $5.0 million after redevelopment.

Because construction cost differs from assessed value, I asked the City Assessor, Ray Anderson, to estimate the assessed value of the proposed development. Mr. Anderson considered all the parts of the proposed redevelopment shown on Mr. Tousis’ plans, including the gasoline pumps and canopy. Mr. Anderson estimates that the assessed value would be $2.8 million.
A copy of Mr. Anderson’s memorandum is attached to this e-mail. I have also attached copies of Mr. Tousis’ plans.

I provide this information in the interest of having a more informed discussion at Wednesday’s meeting. If you have any questions in the meantime, feel free to contact me by phone or e-mail.
Zak Williams, a spokesman for the Tousis project, said O'Connell's memo fails to note that there is additional property in TID-11 on the north side of Washington Avenue, which is the former Piggly Wiggly building. Land on the north side makes up 60 percent of the TID.

The assessed value of Tousis' project would cover its share of the TID, Williams said.

The RDA has twice put off votes on Tousis' extension of deadlines due to a lack of quorum at its last two meetings. Now, based on O'Connell's memo, it appears the RDA may not only reconsider the extension, it may reconsider the project all together.

With no other projects in line to build on the site, the RDA is faced with the decision of going with an less-than-desirable assessment and paying off some of the debt, or scrapping the development and hoping a $5 million project comes along.

Williams is pessimistic any one else is interested in the site.

"If this doesn't go through, no one will build on this site for at least five years," he said. "Then the TID will be upside down, and development will never pay off the loan."

Update: Ryan Rudie, Tousis' architect on the West Racine project, fired off an email to the city development department and several city officials saying the project should be valued at $4.2 million - closer to the desired $5 million level. Here's Rudie's letter:

Dear Mr. O'Connell,

I sure hope this is the last time I have to repeat this to you or Mr. Sadowski or anybody in your department, but the application form was filled out incorrectly by me and did not take into consideration the cost of the gas pumps, gas pump canopy, gas storage tanks, and building fixtures such as refrigerated grocery cases, grocery shelving, walk-in coolers, and walk-in freezers. All of these are items that would be purchased and installed by the Owner or another entity employed by the Owner and were not part of my Architectural plan and thus were not included in my original building estimate when I filled out the form. All of these items are necessary costs of development and therefore should be included in the overall budget which is $4.2 million.

Your email stated that you "provide this information in the interst of having a more informed discussion at Wednesday's meeting". Not only are you informing everybody incorrectly, it seems to me you are trying to muddy the waters and create obstacles for this development.

I hope once and for all we can put this issue to bed___!

Ryan M. Rudie, AIA
Butterfield, Rudie & Seitz Architects, Inc. 
920 Goold Street


  1. Now that we lost tax revenure from the book store, make sure to F this one up also. I moving into city hall when I lose my house.

  2. Real smart Racine, because an easier way to pay off the TIF is to let it sit vacant for 20 years. Is this how all the other TIFs in the city became upside down too?

  3. Well, of course. Because it's obvious that a CONVENIENCE STORE isn't as valuable as a REAL grocery store, which would be too big to be on that site.


    The plan is for a convenience store and always has been. Always has been. Always has been.

    Can you say "big gulp"?

  4. Dustin, it would be interesting if you could get a comment from the city regarding this:

    Zak Williams, a spokesman for the Tousis project, said O'Connell's memo fails to note that there is additional property in TID-11 on the north side of Washington Avenue, which is the former Piggly Wiggly building. Land on the north side makes up 60 percent of the TID.

    The assessed value of Tousis' project would cover its share of the TID, Williams said.

  5. Move (or remove) the urban garden, move the restaurant to that part of the site, expand the convenience store into a real grocery store where the restaurant is planned.

    He originally wanted a bigger store and restaurant (before his crack team realized there were underground problems, zoning laws, TIF requirements, neighborhood wants, and deadlines)

  6. Hey Tom, it's obvious these clowns don't want your business or your tax revenue. Have you considered building it in Caledonia or Mt. Pleasant?

  7. As I drove past this site yesterday, all I could imagine was how nice this development would be for a now unsightly lot. I'll be disappointed if it turns out a pipe dream.

  8. It's hard to take articles seriously that start with headlines like this one. Half a loaf? Why the need for all the sensationalism?
    It's like Dustin went to Journalism classes at the National Enquirer.

  9. I’d love to see this get worked out so there’s at least some progress in this area. Dustin, is it possible to give Mr. O’Connel’s office a call and get a response to Mr. William’s statements?

    It seems like this has been going on forever and, you have to admit, even if the city takes a little bit of a hit on the TIF, it certainly beats the land sitting vacant for another 5 years.

  10. What about the personal property taxes, how much will they bring in for the city? Is the city not concerned about that for of tax now or is there so many different forms of taxation now that they possibly forgot about that one?

  11. Anon 10:57 Don't blame Dustin; I wrote the headline.

    I thought at the time, and still think, that it's an appropriate metaphor and brings readers into the story.

    You're entitled to disagree. But leave the National Enquirer out of it.

  12. Only within the last few weeks have I come to understand Tom's plan and now think its a good idea. Of course Brian "I hate anything not low income housing" O'Connell wants to kill it.
    More critical The Mayor needs to fire members of the RDA who can not come to meetings like Corry Mason.

  13. That headline would not be appropriate for any legitimate newspaper so I would have to agree the Enquirer is a fair comparison.

    They also use the same type of attention-getting headlines.

    Pete I'd suggest spending some time at the grocery checkout and look at the headlines of "those" types of newspapers, then compare that to a higher quality newspaper.

  14. The Hey-there Big Spender headline is even worse than this one.

  15. There's a saying that goes something like "the perfect is the enemy of the good." Seems it might apply to this development.

    Racine should look to their north. In Caledonia, our quest for that elusive "perfect" development has meant that we've turned away (or made it nearly impossible for) a Camping World, an industrial park, a bakery, coffee shops, convenience store, dance studio, ceramic/sculpture studio, just of the ones I can remember.

    So now we struggle with budget deficits, have essentially defunded our parks and struggle just to pay the bills for the very basics.

    I do believe a majority of Caledonia elected officials are beginning to understand that sometimes it's better to take the "good" and at least move in a positive direction, rather than just waiting to go broke.

    So, to the anonymous poster that suggested Mr. Tousis might consider Caledonia - IMHO - heck yeah! Might want to wait until after the April 6th election when hopefully things will take an even more positive step forward.


  17. Isn't it half as expensive because only half of the land can be used? Due to the underground surprises I thought he had to cut down the scope of the project. Why is this a surprise or news?

  18. Seems simple to be, follow the rules everyone else has to. Gus, Vicky and Tom already got the land for free and two extensions. What more to they expect? Maybe the City should pay for the construction too so there isn't any more hurt feeling?

  19. Maybe it be best just to make it a park if this deal does not go down

  20. Lets continue to let the Farmers Market utilize city owned land for free. Lets continue to speculate on vacnt land all around Racine. Better yet lets rid our city of these worthless politicians and meaningless commitee members. Tom just tell them to go F themselves.

  21. This is Dickert's first opportunity to support a development that will succeed. After being associated with losers like Pointe Blue, River Bend Condos, and many other lower priced projects/listings as a mediocre real estate agent, this would give Dickert a feather in his cap.

  22. Well if Dickert could not sell his friend Sandra Tingles house in over a year...

  23. Dickert is allergic to success. If he smells success, he runs in the opposite direction.

  24. Racine Enquirer.

  25. Let it fail Dickert. We wouldn't want your streak of failures broken.

  26. Just the other day I was in Chicago must have been 500000000000000
    in a line waiting for KRM to get built so they could come to Racine visit Downtown and Uptown. at least a good 99.999% of them wanted to buy houses in Racine and send their kids to the great RUSD schools.

  27. 2:55

    It's news for when the City (Brian I love low income housing" O'Connell kills it he has his excuse all ready to go.
    I do think that the Mayor needs to fire Mason,Terry and others who do not have the time to serve (why else are they not coming to meeting?) And find others (not cronies) that want to serve.

  28. Party on!

    What are the combined annual salaries of lying John and the flunkies on the City Council and all of the committees and "authorities" and other various vacuous organizations and enablers affiliated with city operations? We are taxed to the tune of millions and millions of dollars and this is the end result: swine fighting over scraps while the city dies. What a legacy for our children.

  29. How is the city going to get $5 million in a building project on this land if the sewer pipe will not allow construction? Build over or take what your now allowing. It's either do or don't.

  30. Orbs

    Racine, the City that makes Detroit look good.

    Poor Schools
    Silly Government
    High Unemployment
    Only Min wages jobs
    Low and Declining Tax Base
    A Redevelopment authority that makes no sense
    Fleeing population

    Racine has it all
    Yes Racine has it all

  31. I am embarrassed by my hometown. The layers and layers of bureaucratic BS provide jobs for leaches in suits who do nothing but milk the public for more and more tax money. And then these guys don't even make it to the meetings of the communities they've invented to scam the public. God, how I wish I didn't have a conscience, so that I, too, could get rich at the public's expense.

    Party on, you lying thieves!

  32. Sorry, "communities" = committees.

  33. Anyone who writes "Detroit looks good compared to so and so" loses creditability instantly as they obviously have NO IDEA what Detroit currently looks like, people wise, neighborhood wise, government wise and development wise.
    It's not 1955 anymore, wake up !

    As for Tom's filling station I do not really care one way or the other because I do not patronize his establishments.

  34. Dustin, Here's your story......How does the city of racine have Scott Terry on the RDA when only two years ago he sued the city on some frivolous law suit? Only in Racine!

  35. This is ludicrous. I think this progressive city government is taking it's marching orders from Washington D.C. "Screw business over as much as you can and keep the slaves on the plantation". I just can't wait to fire these communists.

  36. Dustin and Pete. You need to do an in-depth investigation on the inner workings of City Hall. Mayor's Office, Attorney's Office, Human Resources Department, City Development, City Council. Confidential information is constantly leaked. Keep asking questions and do not stop digging. Be careful who you trust.

  37. Dear Mr. Tousis

    We can't tax you enough, screw you enough, make you spend enough, make you tired enough, harass you enough, libel you enough, make it difficult enough, and discriminate against you enough. Therefore we don't want your project in West Racine. Just because you pay taxes here in Racine doesn't mean that we that you deserve a fair shake.

    The City of Racine Government

  38. Dickert selects to do something has personally been involved in his campaign. So therefore all these people are biased and will make decisions that favor Dickert. See the linkages below.

    1. Greg Bach - Mayor's Secretary - Ran Dickert's campaign.

    2. John Crimmings - RDA Chair - Dickert's good friend, former boss, and major campaign contributor

    3. Tom Friedel - Appointed City Administrator - Dickert's cousin.

    4. Doug Nicholson - Major campaign contributor

    5. Marck Eickhorst - Newly hired Public Infomation Officer - Dickert ran Eickhorst's past mayoral campaign.

  39. Do not forget that he tried to give his friend and campaign worker a no-bid contract with CAR25. He also is sending city owned houses to John Crimmings. And of course, the icing on the cake is the $50,000 payoff to his friend for a case that was dismissed by a court twice.

  40. I have never seen so much red tape just to build a stupid gas station.

    MY GOD! What if something really meaningful comes along will they have to jump through these hoops too?
    The question is --
    Is Racine dieing because no one wants to build here?

    Or is it dieing because we won't let them build!

    I hope Racine is learning from all this foolishness.

  41. Look at State Street Helding stopped a Hispanic dance hall from opening because well he wanted office buildings because you know KRM was going to bring all those new businesses to town. Look how that worked out.
    Of course the Korean store was stopped because they were going to sell 6 packs!
    I understand that the DRC has video of two bars on 6th st that show customers walking outside and doing the public urination thing but by God no Korean is selling 6 packs.
    Our two largest Racine marketing groups RCEDC and The City of Racine Development Department can not pour water out of a boot. Yet along update a web page.
    Anyone truly wounder what the issue is in Racine.
    The first part of a 10 year plan is to remove RCEDC from and thing to do with the City of Racine and part two is to fire Brian O'Connell.

  42. Thank you Mr. Rudy, for standing up to the City Hall Gestapo. You are an A+ in my book.

  43. I do not understand all the last minute BS from the City. Its like they hate it but do not have the courage to come out and say it.
    I am not surprised by the lack of a spine I just do not understand it

  44. Have you ever heard the saying: The fish stinks from the head? Who's the head around here?

  45. Think 3 Stooges and then think City Hall. They haven't got the balls to fix the problems inside their municipal government, how the heck to you think they can fix anything on the outside. Racine doesn't stand a chance to move ahead. People, the area is only as good as the people elected to run it. When the people who are elected to run it, can't or do a bad job of it, then you have to vote someone else in. The inner workings of City Hall are a joke. Demand they clean house.

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

  47. Brian O'Connell intentually misleading a committee? I am shocked, shocked to find him operating in this way. Maybe Tousis should double check past RDA agendas to see if they have been doctored or if there was email voting going on. O'Connell seems to like to illegally operate this way.

  48. What a joke, between the mayor, city admin, pio officer, aldermen....what a bunch of F-up's! This stupidity has GOT to stop! Vote em all out people! Start this Tuesday!

  49. If anybody talks to the mayor tell him to get his buddy Monte Osterman to pay his employees. And Monte Osterman wants to be a politician? Pay up loser.

  50. Also ask him CCAP says that the city of Racine has a judgement against him.

  51. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmup8AofWnw&feature=player_embedded#

    If not for the great thinkers like O'Connell, Helding, and RCEDC Racine could be Rocking out.
    However this group of ??? are keeping us down

  52. Hell yeah. Let's "Rock Out" with as many gas station convenience stores as we can. That will make us less like Detroit!


  53. 8:07

    It's about having leadership nothing no one want to bring to the table will be approved by those in power. Myself I like it left a park/Garden/Farmers Market but they I know nor you I guess like that idea. Leadership means doing something now not forming committees hiring your friends as consultants more studies more delays, as we see O'Connell get paid 90K+ for nothing.
    8:07 I like to know what you like to see there.

  54. Tim the Shrubber4/05/2010 8:31 AM

    " I think this progressive city government is taking it's marching orders from Washington D.C."

    I seriously doubt that anyone in DC is concerned enough with Racine, WI to be giving marching orders. That just sounds paranoid.

  55. Tim the Shrubber4/05/2010 8:35 AM

    "Racine, the City that makes Detroit look good."

    More proof that many people commenting on this blog have no grounding in reality. Racine is very, very far from being like Detroit.

  56. Tim the Shrubber4/05/2010 8:41 AM

    "Not only are you informing everybody incorrectly, it seems to me you are trying to muddy the waters and create obstacles for this development."

    While Mr. Rudie might be correct about the cost/value issue, this is pretty unprofessional. Seems to me that neither the city nor the Tousis team are looking very good in this project.

  57. "More proof that many people commenting on this blog have no grounding in reality. Racine is very, very far from being like Detroit."

    Your right Detroit allows grassroots efforts to take on neighborhood projects without micromanaging them or simply stopping them. Detroit sees the value in Urban Farming and Farmers Markets.
    Detroit understands that more public input not less helps improve the City.
    In Racine only the crowd from RAMAC/RCEDC/DRC/ O'Connell get a say.

    Detroit in many ways is doing a far better job.

  58. Just when we thought the Mayor and City Officals couldn't get any DUMBER!!!! BAM!!!

  59. 9:40 the funny thing about the city suing Monte is they could not find him, they mailed the summons to an address he has not had for like 4 yrs. It was returned to sender and posted in the paper for 30days?
    The former Mayor was his good buddy, and the DPW Donnie Snow has been at his former current address, and yet the city atty. never thought to open the phone book to find him???
    Sounds corrupt as hell to me!!!
    If Weber is the best we have we are so screwed!
    Read the cities lawsuit.
    They could not find Monte, he had his head in their arses the whole time.....just turn around!!!

  60. Tim- If you look closer at Ryan Ruddie's letter, he mentions that he has told Brian O'Connell about the explanation numerous times. I would be very unhappy if a government official repeatedly passed on information that he knows is incorrect and has been told it was several times.

  61. Never ends always something or someone to take ones dreams away and destroy them by stomping on them!
    Ridiculous !

  62. Now maybe if they want to destroy this plan how bout destroy there plans to purchase anymore cop cars thats a waste of money there!they should be giving used cars very used LOL

  63. I still think the site across the street would be a better site for this station.

    Knock down the two buildings and build it there. Do it right the first time!