Backgroud and questions

From the Journal Times of Racine 12/3/11


RACINE – Chris Flynn has pictures of her vision for the Downtown segment of the Root River hanging on her wall inside D.P. Wigley at 234 Wisconsin Ave.

One picture from a magazine shows a big wooden patio with small lanterns lighting up a walkway to restaurant tables.

Next to that, there is a sketch of her store with entrances from the river, decorative streetlights, trees and at least a dozen people walking along the riverfront.

“This is what I see,” said Flynn, co-owner of D.P. Wigley, who plans to one day open a riverfront brewery, winery and restaurant at her store along the river – which currently sells beer- and wine-making supplies, as well as grain and lawn and garden supplies.

The big picture

That is all part of a larger plan that a group of area volunteers – the Root River Council – are forming to revitalize the Root River in Downtown Racine.

Their goals are to create a sense of place, more access to the river, improve water quality, and stimulate economic growth. Ideas include creating new boardwalks, biking paths closer to the water, a seasonal food court area, and a music venue.

“They involve bringing people to the river, giving them access and having them interact,” said Monte Osterman, a county supervisor and chairman of the Root River Council. “There are probably 100 different things you could do down here that make sense.”

The RRC is collecting ideas from the public over the next several months and working with the design firm Vandewalle & Associates, Inc., to create a feasible master plan for the Downtown portion of the river, said Osterman, whose family owns two businesses on Main Street, Copacetic and Osterman Granite and Marble.

Osterman declined to provide an estimate for the cost of the firm’s work studying the area and creating the master plan. But Ben Lehner, the council’s outreach director, said the plan is being crafted thanks to state and federal grants and private donations, not city funds.

Economic development

In both Milwaukee’s Third Ward and in Neenah, communities came together to create a riverwalk and revitalize an area, Lehner said.

“There is no reason it cannot happen here,” said Lehner, who owns the Downtown coffee shop Circa Celeste, 619 Wisconsin Ave.

In Neenah, the city invested about $3.5 million in revitalizing a riverfront park in about 2004.

The city built a new boat house that provided a sheltered gathering place, a fountain and piers. It also started holding concerts and other special events, said Chris Haese, Neenah’s director of community development. From there, the city’s Holiday Inn underwent an extensive renovation and renamed itself the Holiday Inn Neenah Riverwalk. The new development, along with extensive brownfield cleanup efforts, led to two new large businesses moving to Neenah’s downtown, Haese said.

“I think our efforts to begin the riverwalk certainly sent a message to the community: We were willing to make an investment in the riverfront,” Haese said.

Limited access

There are some access points to the river now in Downtown Racine, but other points are blocked off by barbed-wire fence. There is also a staircase that starts to lead up to Wisconsin Avenue, just one street over from Main Street. But the stairs stop midway up the hill and lead only to a platform filled with long grass and brush.

Instead of an overgrown hill, “the whole hill should be landscaped so it’s usable,” said Flynn, who also is a member of the RRC.


John Rooney, the city’s assistant commissioner of public works/engineering, warns a complete revitalization is an “ambitious plan.”

“It’s great people have thought to revitalize the Root River corridor,” Rooney said. But there are a lot of challenges. For instance, when the city built a bike trail on the north side of the river, it was completed over several years, and in parts there is no view of the river because of geographic limitations, Rooney said. You have to be very careful about where you construct paths because in places there are bluffs that can erode, Rooney said.

But Lehner said the study being conducted will help determine what is feasible, as well as “low-hanging fruit,” as he calls it – the projects which are fairly easy to do, such as more signs and a more inviting riverwalk on the river’s south side.

The RRC intends to present a proposal to the City Council late next year for approval to move forward, Lehner said, although he realizes it could take years to become a reality. He does not yet have a cost estimate for the project as a whole, but he said it would need a lot of public-private partnerships to become a reality.

Similar to the complete plan, Flynn knows it’s going to take a lot of money and time to make her restaurant and brewery vision a reality along the river.

But she is hopeful it can become a reality within a couple years. She envisions, one day, sitting on the patio and drinking a glass of homemade wine, while overlooking a riverwalk.


What is the Root River Council?

The Root River Council started in 2006 as a conversation among various community members concerned about the Root River. It now consists of approximately 10 executive board members from diverse backgrounds including Downtown business owners and state Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine.

The council is working closely with city on its plans for the Root River revitalization and several of the committee advisors are city staff. The council is currently in the process of applying to become a 501(c)3 nonprofit.


To contribute to the Root River plan

In partnership with the city’s planning department and the design firm Vandewalle & Associates Inc., the Root River Council is organizing community workshops to gather input that will guide the creation of a master plan for Root River revitalization.

The meetings are at 21st Century Preparatory School Auditorium, 1220 Mound Ave., from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on the following days next year:

Jan. 26, March 29, May 31, July 26 and Sept. 27.



Questions I have been asked and I cant answer


1) How can one join?

2) How did they become the defato group for the revitalization?

3) This group plan looks like the 6th St Plan the City of Racine had done under Garry Becker why the change?  (I am looking for a copy of this 6th st plan)

4) Many listed on the groups Web page are also in other groups like Wild Root do you have to support that effort to join (How did that get started?)

5) ”’          “”                                               “” known active in the Democratic Party must you be?

I can see where that got started with many being hvy hitters and with Rep Corry “The Tick” Mason (D) Racine being a leader or as I see it claiming credit as others do the work as his style loves to do .  I think that due to my politics I would never be allowed to join the Root River Council I would hope that Party membership would not matter.

Its up to the Root River Council to answer the qustions of the public or not. Myself I will be looking into the 6th St Plan and if this plan would have been the same as the Root River Plan is looking like.  I do want to know if the 6th St plan was going to be done and then the City chaged it’s mind why that happen

%d bloggers like this: