$450M development in Kenosha moves forward, could reshape downtown area

Kenosha Common Council approved development agreement Monday

buildings are shown from above
A development plan for Downtown Kenosha could reshape the area in the coming years. Photo courtesy of Cobalt Smith

A major development plan in Kenosha could reshape the city’s downtown in the coming years.

Plans for the development include over 1,000 apartments and condominiums, office buildings, retail space, a market hall and hotel and across a nine-block radius downtown. The plan would also develop a new municipal office building, while razing the existing city hall to make way for a residential tower and mixed-use development.

The development agreement with Cobalt Smith, a partnership of Cobalt Partners, LLC of Milwaukee, and C.D. Smith of Fond du Lac was approved by the Kenosha Common Council Monday. Construction for the $450 million project would be completed in phases over the next seven to 10 years, but would likely begin later this year.

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“We’re very excited about the whole project,” Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian said. “It should be a remarkable area for people to enjoy.”

The phased development will impact several streets in downtown Kenosha in an area bordered by Sheridan Road on the west, 52nd Street on the north, 56th Street on the south and Lake Michigan on the east. Antaramian said the majority of that land is ready to be developed, as it’s already either owned by the city or the developers.

“There’s very little demolition left to happen on the site,” he said.

The existing Tax Increment District No. 27 will be used to help with funding public improvements. A new Veterans Memorial Park would also be created, along with a road to connect different buildings within the development.

Public Craft Brewing will be just two blocks away from the bulk of the development. Matt Geary, the founder of that company, said he’s “cautiously optimistic” about the plans.

“Anything that gets more people down here is a good thing,” Geary said.

Geary also said he’s excited that construction will likely begin soon.

“It’s encouraging that the mayor’s looking to get started even this year, which I think is fantastic,” he said. “The quicker they can get started and break ground on it, that makes me happy.”

A statement from Scott Yauck, President of Cobalt Partners, said they’ve been impressed with the economic growth being seen in Kenosha for years.

“Kenosha’s lakefront is beautiful, and the downtown has many attractions, restaurants, and shopping,” Yauck said. “We are confident in the market for high-quality multi-family (housing) with fantastic views and within walking distance to all the downtown and lakefront have to offer.”

A document from C.D. Smith said the vision for the plan holds “tremendous potential” because of the city’s close proximity to Milwaukee and Chicago, and because of the amenities in downtown Kenosha, including marinas, museums, restaurants, retail businesses and a streetcar loop. C. D. Smith has worked on similar projects in Milwaukee, La Crosse, Madison and Appleton.

“We see significant potential in Kenosha for the downtown to really blossom,” Mike Krolczyk, senior vice president of C. D. Smith, said in a statement.

During the Common Council meeting Monday, Kenosha Alder Daniel Prozanski Jr. praised the proposal.

“Here we have a plan, and it’s a really good one. It’s a plan that’s going to take Kenosha into the future and that’s where we need to be,” Prozanski Jr. said. “When it’s done, it’s there for the future, it’s there for our children and our grandchildren. That’s what forward-thinking communities do.”

Future city approvals are still needed for the specific details within the plans. During the common council meeting, Kenosha Ald. Jan Michalski called the development a “piecemeal project.”

“This is a concept. This is not necessarily what it’s going to end up being,” Michalski said. “Hopefully it will not digress much from the overall plan. That’s why we have a plan. But at the same time, bear in mind that this is a concept.”

In response, Antaramian said, “The developers involved have been very, very successful developers in Wisconsin … and so I’m not overly concerned about that, but markets change and things happen, so I’ll never say that something can’t go wrong. But the way this is set up, including with the TIF district, is pretty much backloaded, so the risk to the city is very minimal.”