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Northterra Real Estate Group LLC, a development company owned by Caledonia resident Lee Jaramillo, had an accepted offer to buy 500 Monument Square, the former Zahn’s Department Store building, but the deal has fallen apart.

Jaramillo wanted to put in a mixed use that included a coffee shop and an educational-based “makers’ space” that could have dovetailed with area schools’ curriculum. The Racine Public Library was to run the makers’ space, but since they lost a grant they were unable to be part of the deal.

“I was very surprised,” Jaramillo said. “We were very confident that we had our funding on this.”

Library officials didn’t give him details on why they had lost the grant, but they were also disappointed that they didn’t get the funding, Jaramillo said.

“They were in shock too because they were in support of the project,” he said.

Jaramillo had other tenants lined up for the project, but after library officials told him they were pulling out, he really didn’t feel comfortable trying to find a new one while he still had the building under contract because they had already lost money on the deal.

The 40,000-square-foot building, which was founded by Edward Zahn in 1898 operated as Zahn’s Department store, is owned by Tri-City Bank National Bank. The building has been vacant since 1981. Tri-City Bank inherited the building when it purchased the assets of the Bank of Elmwood when the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation shut down the bank in September 2009.

For now, Jaramillo has terminated the contract with the seller, but he’s still open to entertaining ideas on a future project if someone is interested.

“I hope a white knight comes along and we can come back to the table and see if we can’t get this done,” he said.





Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.

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