Kenosha Innovation Neighborhood work group starts to define roles
KENOSHA, Wis. - However the rest of the process plays out, both the City of Kenosha and the future Kenosha Innovation Neighborhood Board will serve as separate entities in the overall success of the project.
The roles for each remain a work in progress.
A work group of five community members met Friday via teleconference to continue working on the $19.5 million innovation center that will be located on what once was the 107-acre site of the Chrysler Engine Plant.
The proposal is focused on transforming the former blighted property east of 30th Avenue between 52nd and 60th streets into a hub for innovation. The property has been dormant for more than a decade.
UW-Parkside Chancellor Debbie Ford led the meeting that included Jockey International President and COO Mark Fedyk, City of Kenosha Development Director Tim Casey and Tim Mahone, president and founder of Mahone Strategies. Art Harrington, a Kenosha native and attorney-shareholder at Godfrey & Kahn, was unable to attend.
“This (process) will evolve and change as we seek greater input from community, corporate partners and citizens of the neighborhoods that we are really working to enhance that will be surrounded by the Kenosha Innovation Neighborhood,” Ford said.
The neighborhoods around the site are Lincoln, Columbus, McKinley, Wilson, Roosevelt and Uptown.
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Uptown also plays a key role with the former Brown National Bank, where two community informational sessions have been planned, with a third and final set for October. The first two meetings drew about 250 people, with another 600 who have answered a city survey to date, Casey said.
Ford said an application to register the future KIN board with the Internal Revenue Service as a nonprofit organization will be completed by the city.
Operating as a nonprofit serves a number of functions, said consultant Julie Huls of the Waymaker Group, which specializes in transformative economic development.
“A separate and independently led nonprofit serves a very important and centralized function,” she said. “It organizes the functions and activities of this project. The role of the board is to protect the collective vision of the project. The key term is ‘collective vision.’”
The land will continue to be owned by the City of Kenosha, Huls said, including the construction of major infrastructure and commonly used public amenities. The nonprofit will be responsible to partner with developers to build most of the vertical infrastracture.
“It’s really important to remember that this organization will be led by a number of partners dedicated to this collective vision,” Huls said.
The work group has identified four areas, all divided equally, that need to be focused on: education and workforce development; community and economic development; research and developing partnerships with higher-education institutions and industry groups; and real estate development and property management.
Plans for housing
Several in attendance asked whether affordable and quality housing remained in the “scope” of the nonprofit application draft language.
“It is my understanding, that of course, affordable housing is still within the broader scope of the project,” Huls said. “It will be a co-determination between the city and the nonprofit how that looks.”
Mahone said he wanted to be cautious of using the term “affordable” housing.
“That term gets tossed around and means different things to different people,” he said. “I want to make sure we’re inclusive of those that are economically challenged that deserve to be part of this housing initiative.”
How the 107 acres will be divided is still far from being decided, both Ford and Huls said.
Casey said housing isn’t specifically written out in the draft, but it’s implied, he said, through the planned work with community and economic development. There will be a range of different uses on that land, he said.
“The further we get into it, we probably see more housing, not less as part of the mix, along with the technology, innovation and educational components in the mixed use,” Casey said.
Role of the council
In response to a question from Fedyk, Casey said he sees a role for the council moving ahead, as the city will serve as an “initial” funding source, with many other entities expected to have a stake.
“The city will always be at the table, for the simple fact that we own the land,” he said. “How we structure this to get all of that other participation, establish those relationships and to maintain that mission as we go through this process (is to be determined).”
Casey said before any hard numbers can be determined, it’s the wish of the city, through Administrator John Morrissey, that the new KIN board be established first.
Possible financial support from the city could come from the formation of a Tax Increment Finance District or “other mechanisms,” Casey said.
“At a minimum, that would be information that would be shared with the council,” he said. “The council would certainly be aware of everything the administration is proposing in terms of how we move forward with this relationship.”