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RACINE — Calling 2022 “an unprecedented year” for Downtown Racine, leaders of the Downtown Racine Corp. (DRC) on Tuesday cited increased numbers of new business start-ups, special events and public event attendance.

“Downtown is the economic engine of the community. I really think there are some amazing things coming in the next couple of years. Stay tuned,” said Tim Mason, DRC board chairman for 2023-24.

Kelly Kruse, DRC executive director, pointed to several positive statistics from the past year:

  • 35 new businesses opened in the Downtown area vs. nine closings. The number of openings was up slightly from 33 in 2021 and a dramatic increase from just 10 new business openings in the pandemic-affected year of 2020.
  • Property valuations within Business Improvement District (BID) #1, which encompasses much of the Downtown area, hit $96 million in 2022 compared with $56 million when the BID was established in 2002.
  • DRC sponsored 70 events in 2022 compared with 39 events in pre-pandemic 2019.
  • Party on the Pavement, held last September, drew a record 15,500 visitors last year and also saw 122 vendors.

Among the new additions to the Downtown Racine events scene were the Downtown Fashion Show, which had 13 participating businesses; Racine HarborMarket, which attracted 7,000 visitors to Monument Square over four summer and fall dates; two mini-golf pub crawls and three Third Thursdays shopping nights.

“We have to give people a reason to come Downtown, so we’ve doubled down on events this past year,” said Kruse.

A number of new events and activities are in the works for 2023, including the Burr Pub Crawl featuring hot beverages at several locations this Saturday (Jan. 21) as well as up to eight to 12 dates for the Racine HarborMarket, she said.

Kruse also announced that for 2023, the DRC will exclusively manage the First Fridays event. A long-standing shopping and entertainment promotion, First Fridays had been managed by merchants.

“We plan to rejuvenate it and put on a fresh spin,” she added.

Downtown leaders are also looking forward to the summer 2023 opening of Hotel Verdant, a boutique hotel located in the long-vacant former Zahn’s Department Store on Monument Square. “It’s going to be a game changer,” said Kruse. “We can’t wait!”

New public art theme: Love Racine

Downtown Racine
“Love Racine” is the Downtown public art theme for 2023. Tim Mason, Downtown Racine Corp. chairman, shows one of two sculpted letter designs to be decorated by local artists and displayed outside Downtown businesses this summer. – Credit: Paul Holley

“Love Racine” was unveiled as the 2023 public art theme. Sculpted letters, in two designs, will be available for decoration by local artist and displayed in front of Downtown businesses this summer. Kruse said sponsorship information and a call for artists will be available through the DRC website and Facebook page.

Downtown Racine
“Love Racine” is the Downtown public art theme for 2023. The other sculpted letter design to be decorated and displayed outside Downtown businesses this summer is shown here. – Credit: Downtown Racine Corp.

This year marks the 22nd annual public art project for the Downtown area. Previous art themes have included rocking chairs, café tables, benches, dogs, cats, fish, boats, and lighthouses.

Achievement Award winners

Six individuals and businesses were honored with Downtown Achievement Awards. They were selected from among nearly 90 nominations submitted by the public late last year.

Honorable Mention: Yolanda Coleman, founder of BePlush, a multi-women-owned storefront at 300 Main St.

Downtown Showcase Award: Racine HarborMarket, held on Monument Square.

Corporate Citizenship Award: Austin Schultz, owner of Plumb Gold and Plumb Silver Jewelry, 322 Main St.

Best New Small Business Award: Doug Nicolson for Carriage House Pedal Tavern.

CPR Award (for the redevelopment of a downtown business or property): Hotel Verdant, 500 Monument Square.

Downtown Champion Award: Marci Bruley of Marci’s on Main, 236 Main St.

A broadcast of the full DRC State of the Downtown and Downtown Achievement Awards presentation can be viewed here on the DRC Facebook page.

Downtown Racine
Austin Schultz, who has worked in Downtown Racine since he was 15, received the Downtown Corporate Citizenship Award. The award recognizes an individual or organization that has provided service to the downtown community and has worked tirelessly to promote downtown. Schultz owns Plumb Gold and Plumb Silver Jewelry. – Credit: Paul Holley

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Paul Holley is retired from careers in journalism, public relations and marketing but not from life. These days, he pretty much writes about what he feels like writing. You may contact him directly at:...