By Rex Davenport
Special to Racine County Eye
The City of Racine appears ready to take to next steps to rehabilitate a long-vacant North Memorial Drive former industrial site and make it ready for new development.
A recommendation from the Redevelopment Authority (RDA) of the City of Racine that the former industrial site be declared blighted is the next step on the path to clearing, rehabilitating and ultimately developing the property. That designation now rests with the Common Council.
The “determination of blight is on the Common Council agenda for Aug. 7,” said Amy Connolly, Director of City Development. “This determination is needed before the Redevelopment Authority can accept the property from the City and begin its work on brownfield remediation and demolition on behalf of the City.”
The UPEC property, 1500 Memorial Drive, is an industrial property of about 3.1 acres. It is locally known for the name of a past owner, “Unlimited Products Engineering Co.” or “UPEC.” According to RDA documents: “There are four masonry and steel buildings and one wood frame building on the site. The total floor area of the buildings is approximately 69,200 square feet.”
A pair of environmental assessments have been completed on the property. Because of its current condition it is characterized as a brownfield property by the RDA.
The City of Racine became receiver of the property when the Racine County Circuit Court determined the site to be a public nuisance. The buildings have deteriorated to the point they must be razed.
The UPEC property was acquired by Racine County in December 2018 through In Rem foreclosure and transferred by quit claim deed to the City of Racine. The property has been vacant for years and is in general disrepair with a portion of the roof collapsed,” notes the RDA documents, adding, “The building contains asbestos and many abandoned containers of waste, some of which are exposed to the elements and all of which would be accessible to trespassers. Graffiti inside suggests trespassers have been present in the past.”
State statutes set out the process
A Wisconsin statute requires that before any property is acquired by the RDA the authority must designate the boundaries of the proposed project area, submit the proposed project area to the Common Council and the Common Council must adopt a resolution by two-thirds majority declaring the project area to be a blighted area in need of a blight elimination, slum clearance and urban renewal project.
A “project area” is a generally defined as a blighted area that the Common Council declares to be in need of a blight elimination, slum clearance and an urban renewal project.
Wisconsin statutes require a “blighted area” to include an area in which there is a predominance of buildings, which by reason of dilapidation, deterioration, age or obsolescence or conditions which endanger life or property or by any combination of such factors is conducive to ill health, crime and is detrimental to the public health, safety, morals or welfare.
Phase I and II environmental assessments have been completed on the property, the RDA notes. Because of its current condition it is characterized as a brownfield property.
Upon acquisition by the City of the Racine, a qualified waste contractor was hired to inspect, repack and selectively remove the most degraded containers of waste, but the partially collapsed roof and severe winter weather left several inches of ice on the floor, impeding the work. The container sorting and removal work continues.