City officials, the County Treasurer and representatives of Great Lakes Community Conservation Corps were on hand Monday to celebrate the next cooperative project between the city and GLCCC—a new home to be built at 1432 Illinois St. in Racine.

Th groundbreaking event was on the site of an existing house will be torn down to make room for the new one that will take its place.

The property will be the first new home constructed in the neighborhood in more than fifty years. It also will serve as a training site for Racine’s young adults to learn hands-on skills in the building trades under the direction of professional contractors.

Officials of Racine and Great Lakes Community Conservation Corps were on hand Monday to kick off their next cooperative project.

“This is our first new construction project in Racine,” said Christopher J. Litzau, president, Great Lakes Community Conservation Corps. “Through the auspices of Racine County, we were able to get six properties. We have completed (work on) three and those have been sold.”

The first three projects were rehabs. “This one was so far gone that it couldn’t be rehabbed. It’s a scrape off and start new,” added Litzau.

He likened the project, which starts by obtaining the property through foreclosure by Racine County, as an example of change and growth. “As a job training program, we like to think of this as a metaphor for our students. They are building for the future,” Litzau said. “This house is a metaphor, too, for our training program. We are about tearing down things that don’t work and getting rid of them. Then taking on new traits and characteristics.”

Everyone one of the participants in the Racine-based program will at some point be involved in the new construction. Some will be involved in early site clearing and prep work, others as framing takes place and trades work brings it to its conclusion.

“We expect 30-40 young people to have some role in the project,” said Litzau. “The phasing and redevelopment of the new construction will change. Everyone will have a hand in the project. That is typically how it is how it works.”

GLCCC is a paid training program of AmeriCorps, and everyone who participates becomes an AmeriCorps member. AmeriCorps is a voluntary civil society program supported by the U.S. government, foundations, corporations, and other donors engaging adults in public service work with a goal of helping others and meeting critical needs in the community.

Participation in the local GLCCC is all word of mouth. “It’s all about relationships,” noted Litzau.

Racine Mayor Cory Mason also likened the project with change. “Here we are, under a tree whose leaves are changing. It’s a good metaphor for what we have here today. It’s about changing a neighborhood, but it’s also about how we change our community with the young people who are here (involved in the project).”

The public and media event was capped with the destruction of a detached garage, which is also on the lot being developed.

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.