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RACINE — The Lincoln King Neighborhood Redevelopment Plan has left some residents a bit jittery as the Community Development Authority and the city begin buying properties and discussing eminent domain.

Eminent domain statutes have historically been used to seize properties in predominantly Black communities such as Lincoln King to make room for development, so there is historical precedence for concern.

Alderman Marcus West said one of his constituents called him worried she might lose her house.

West described the person as retired and sometimes having to make hard choices between the upkeep of her house, food, and prescriptions.

Kathleen Fischer, city finance director, explained there is a process that must be followed under the eminent domain statutes for municipal governments to acquire property, but the properties under discussion are vacant and for sale.

Lincoln King Neighborhood Redevelopment Plan
A West Street property in the Lincoln King neighborhood that the City of Racine is interested in purchasing. – Credit: Dee Hölzel

“Our goal is to buy things that are for sale on the open market with somebody who is willing to sell,” she said. “That is the goal.”

The discussion occurred at the city’s Finance and Personnel Committee on Monday where committee members discussed the possible purchase of three commercial properties within Lincoln King: 1415 Hamilton St., 1440 West St., and 1430 West St.

All three buildings are vacant and for sale.

The proposal passed out of committee and will now go before the Racine Common Council.

There is a process

Scott Letteney, city attorney, stressed business owners are not being forced to relocate to make room for development. These properties are for sale.

He said the first step in the process of acquiring the three commercial properties was for the city government to show necessity.

In this case, according to the documents provided to the Finance & Personnel Committee, the necessity was implementing the redevelopment plan, eliminating blight, and providing for the safety of the community.

More positive comments

In an interview with the Racine County Eye, West said he spoke out at the meeting because he wanted to get a few things on the record on behalf of his constituents.

He confirmed he has received calls about the Lincoln King Redevelopment Plan with community members concerned about losing their homes to eminent domain but also about gentrification.

West said there have been more positive comments than negative ones.

He said the community outreach was conducted by Payne Consulting, which really made a difference because residents were able to get their questions answered.

“I’m glad we selected them,” he said. “They insured the community was included in these conversations. They tackled it in the right way.”

West said he was grateful for the investments in the 8th district that will rehabilitate housing and provide more housing options. He said the goal was to see more people who owned their own homes and fewer rentals.

“I’m all for that,” he said.

The Lincoln King revitalization process

Lincoln King Neighborhood Redevelopment Plan is being undertaken with a $15 million grant from the Neighborhood Investment Fund.

Governor Tony Evers announced the $200 million initiative in Aug. 2021.

The grant uses ARPA funds and is intended to aid communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Unlocking Racine

Unlocking Racine is a year-long solutions-based multi-media project which is shedding much-needed light on the housing instability crisis in Racine County. The Racine County Eye, which includes the Kenosha Lens, is committed to serving our local communities with integrity. We are your source for local news that serves our diverse communities. Subscribe today to stay up-to-date with local news.

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