Best Practice: Kenosha Mayor Antaramian Improves Economy and Environment
June 27, 2005
Like many older U.S. cities that developed during the industrial revolution, Kenosha (WI) realized the need to redevelop and reposition its public infrastructure to meets the needs of tomorrow. To help stimulate the local economy, Mayor John Antaramian wanted to redevelop an area of the city that was once a booming industrial park that was abandoned for many years, more commonly known as brownfields.
Brownfields have been a top legislative priority for the Conference of Mayors since the early 1990's. Brownfields are abandoned, idled, or under-used industrial and commercial facilities, where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination. The Conference of Mayors and Kenosha now have a federal program in place to help develop these underutilized properties.
Kenosha has a population just over 90,000 and is located in the southeastern part of the state along Lake Michigan. Kenosha was at the cutting edge of brownfield redevelopment for Wisconsin in 1994, when plans to redevelop the Harbor Park area formulated. At that time, there was little research into brownfield redevelopment. The city laid the foundation for the responsible cleanup of brownfield areas within Wisconsin, forming a partnership with the only other organization that had any history of redeveloping abandoned industrial areas, the state of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). With the help of the DNR, mainly Darsi Foss and Pamela Mylotta, Brownfields Section Chiefs, Kenosha began the cleanup process.
The city followed the guidelines set by the DNR for the clean up of brownfields. First, the city installed a "cap" of clean soil over the site. Next, the planners had to conduct a cleanup related to a remaining storage tank. Finally, the city had to perform long-term groundwater monitoring at eight locations. The city spent $18.5 million on the cleanup and infrastructure, including the installation of streets and lamps, of the Harbor Park area.
The city discovered numerous benefits to redeveloping brownfields. These benefits include tax base growth, job creation, neighborhood revitalization and environmental protection. Harbor Park has a mix of apartments, condominiums and townhomes. This mix of homes allows for a diverse work force and larger tax base for the city. This project has also created numerous jobs, not only in construction, but also in the commercial areas of Harbor Park. Redeveloping Harbor Park has also increased the property value. Currently, Harbor Park is worth more then $50 million in property value and once it is completely developed, will be worth between $80 to $100 million.
Antaramian said, "This project has created a focal point within the community for residents to come together in a multi-purpose setting to enjoy the views of the harbor and Lake Michigan. Harbor Park gives the residents of Kenosha a sense of community identity and community pride."
The Harbor Park Project has been divided up into 11 different quadrants. Currently, six of those quadrants are developed into residential areas with two more to be completed shortly. There is a good mix of different types of housing in these areas. Two more are zoned to become restaurant and commercial areas. The last quadrant will be a mixed commercial and residential area, which will become an apartment complex with shops on the bottom floor.
Kenosha left 86 percent of the lake front and surrounding areas of Harbor Park open to the public. There is a walkway and bike trail surrounding the community that provides access to parks and different types of recreation.
One of the best things that the city and mayor did was to have public involvement in the entire project. Once basic plans were developed, the city held public meetings to discuss how the residents wanted the land used once the site was developed. The city taped all of the public meetings and placed them on their cable access channel, so that even people who couldn't leave their homes to attend the meetings could be informed as to what new developments have occurred.
Thanks to being completely open to the public with this project, there was almost 100 percent public backing for the Harbor Park redevelopment project. The residents of Kenosha were able to add their input as to what they wanted done to the land that lead to many astatically pleasing changes to the original plan.
Simmons Mattress Company originally owned the Harbor Park area. Auto manufactures began purchasing parts of this property and soon Chrysler began making cars and engines. When auto sales began to fall, Chrysler was forced to close their auto manufacturing facilities but kept the engine production facilities open. When closing their manufacturing plant, Chrysler did a good deal of cleanup of their site. They demolished the building and completed some soil remediation.
In 1994, Kenosha purchased a 70-acre parcel of land from ATC, a transportation company, for $1. The city then began a plan to redevelop these areas and repair the damage done to the environment that years of neglect had caused. Heavy metals, petroleum products and some PCB's were some of the contaminants found on this land.
Since this project started, the Kenosha also began the redevelopment of three other sites within the city. After realizing the benefits that redevelopment of brownfields could have for the city, Antaramian could not pass up another opportunity to develop new jobs and improve the economy of his city.
For more information on Kenosha's Brownfields program call Mayor John Antaramian at (262) 653-4000