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RACINE, WI – With a number of developments on the horizon and an uptick in businesses in downtown Racine, the area over the next few years will be booming.

So city officials want to address issues around traffic, parking and the design of Monument Square now before they become a major issue. But they also want input from the community around these issues. They are hosting a series of meetings that kicks off Monday night.

Madison-based Toole Design LLC  and Walker Consultants, both nationally recognized design firms, will lead the meetings. 

“I am excited about the opportunity for the public to participate in these workshops,” said Mayor Cory Mason. “Our historic downtown is a part of Racine’s DNA. We all have some connection to the downtown and feel invested in its success, so it is important to me that we make sure that the community is an active participant in visioning its future.”

The project team includes notable engineer Ian Lockwood, a nationally recognized leader in sustainable transportation policy and urban design and Harvard Loeb Fellow, and Raj Mohabeer, a landscape architect with expertise in transportation solutions, according to a press release by the city.

Their mission — according to the request for proposal — redesign Monument Square, design a Main Street traffic corridor, and come up with a strategy for the downtown parking system. But those plans also need to “work together to promote our downtown as a welcoming destination, a place to arrive and stay, a thriving business and cultural center, and a place to call home.”

Racine City Development Director Amy Connolly underscored the need for the community to be involved in the meetings.

“These were issues that deserved input from everybody in every corner of the community,” she said. “We didn’t want to have a consultant go back in their office and design something, we wanted them to do it with as much community input as possible. These are big changes, you know. And I just think it’s, you end up with better decisions about design, when you have a lot of sunshine on the project.” 

This also shortens up the design process, Connolly said.

“The structure of this of this engagement is that it’s faster and it’s more efficient,” she said. “If you have the consultant, come here, and spend two weeks in the community and do as much drawing as they can with the public watching what they’re doing.”

Why is the city doing this?

Travel and tourism expert Roger Brooks visited downtown Racine last year and made a number of recommendations.

“He said, you have to do something about the speed and the behavior of traffic downtown because it is not comfortable, you know, pedestrians to walk down the street,” Connolly said. “You have no outdoor dining. And it’s because it’s too loud, and your traffic moves too fast, which is hurting your tourism industry. And your monument square is so badly designed…There’s nobody there, nobody can enjoy it. And it isn’t helping you draw tourism.

“So and he really felt like parking could be a little differently too and it would help drive (these) changes.”

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The series of meetings will be held from:

  • 7 to 8 p.m. Monday, Workshop: Values & Issues Conversation
  • 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Interactive Design Session #1
  • 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Presentation: Project understanding & Validation
  • 4 to 6 p.m. July 30, Interactive Design Session #2
  • 7 to 8:30 p.m. August 1, Presentation: Final project design & outcomes

All of the meetings will be held at the Johnson Bank Building, 555 Main St. in rooms C and D.

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.