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As the Water Street buildings begin to be razed, the city of Racine now has a new challenge: find the highest and best use for the historic riverfront properties. Every one of the dozen buildings on the 30-plus acres will be leveled, creating a completely blank canvas for development.

Read about the Collapse of roof this summer.

Equipment moved onto the site this week, and the destruction has begun.

Hopes of reusing some of the historic buildings faded as time and politics took their toll.
A developer, FDP MR LLC deeded the former Machinery Row property at 1010 Water St. to the Redevelopment Authority (RDA) of the City of Racine in late December. Initially, the RDA was set to finance the Machinery Row project. The city took control of the property, as well as acquiring lots at 820 Water St. 900 Water Street, and a lot on the corner of Water and Marquette streets.

“While the demolition and remediation is ongoing, and that contract runs through the spring of next year, we have also awarded a contract to a team that is developing an analysis and a plan for the city,” said City Administrator Jim Palenick. “We are developing a new plan for a fully razed, clean, and clear site. It will imagine where riverwalks, plazas and that type of thing will go, consistent with some of the grants to be able to do that work.”

Graef Engineering, Perkins+Will planners, and several other members on the financial side will ultimately put together a plan that will lead to a request for quotation.

Without the challenge of rehabilitating crumbling buildings hanging over its head, the city can proceed with a blank slate approach for the site. A massing of buildings, residential versus mixed use is anticipated, suggested Palenick.

“Eventually, it comes together as a plan,” he said. “A visual plan, a narrative plan, as well as an actual RFQ to go out to the development community. That’s all going on now. Hopefully, as we get closer to having the site ready, we will have the plans completed and a process (to get started).”

Machinery Row demolition through end of the year

Demolition work should near completion by the end of the year, with ground remediation extending into 2019, when the demolition contract ends. Nothing will be saved.

“Everything is coming down,” added Palenick. “At one time, the buildings were in better shape. And at the time there was more availability of historic preservation tax credits, which are necessary if you are going to have any hope to do adaptive reuse of older buildings like that.”

Historic preservation tax credits at the state level have all but dried up.

“In the meantime, those buildings decayed much more and were really beyond salvage at that point,” Palenick said. “The combination of those two things ended the prospect of saving any of the buildings.”

A video stroll through Machinery Row (September 2017)

Rex Davenport

Rex Davenport is a reporter, editor and editorial project manager with more than 40 years of experience in newspaper, business magazines and other content channels.