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Some of the newest investors in downtown Racine say they hope to plant roots and ride the wave of development that is beginning to engulf the community.

A group recently joined together to purchase the former YMCA building, 401 Wisconsin Ave. for $399,000. Based in the Los Angeles area, the investors came together for the one-time project, but they have designs on additional projects in or around downtown.

Although the 45,000-square-foot building might be ripe for redevelopment into housing, it is sitting on a valuable spot in the quickly changing Main Street area, which could lead to other uses.

“The plans for the future use of the building are still up in the air,” said Brittany Seely, one of three investors in the purchase.

“We had been doing some research on Racine,” Seely explained. “And we heard about a little company called Foxconn that is moving in. So our other business partners and I made a trip out there in January. “We met with  numerous contacts. This building came up, and it looked great. We really liked the character, and we liked the location.”

One of Seely’s partners, Tim Ryan, said Racine reminds him of Chattanooga, Tennessee, of about 10 years ago. He said he and his partners pursued successful projects in that market. And, he hopes to be an ongoing presence here.

“We are going to be there for a while,” Ryan said. “One of the things is, we want to be a part of the community. We are not fixing up and selling. We are not flipping. We want to be part of the Racine community, and be part of a solution. We want to see it grow.”

A third partner in the project is Todd Bowden.

Migration back to cities

“What we are also seeing is a great migration back to urban (areas),” added Ryan. “If you look at pictures of places like Racine in the early 1900s, there are people and cars everywhere.”

Ryan explained that a after WWII, the suburbs built up and people moved out of the cities. “Now, there is this migration back,” he said. “There are places to eat and drink and you can walk everywhere. We see that as a big growth area” for Racine.

 Moving downtown

“We see (the building) as having great potential for all these people who are going to be coming in to work at Foxconn, and who want to live in a downtown area,” Seely noted. “The marina is beautiful. We were there for one of the parties on Monument Square. We really like the community and the vibe we feel when we are there.”

Built in 1915 the building is described as neo-classical design; its exterior is brick. It has primarily been used for recreation. It was designed by Albert Arthur Guilbert of the firm of Guilbert and Funston of Racine.

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.