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Uptown Artist Relocation District hoping to draw up success in Racine

By Jan Basina

A thriving arts district, where tourists and art enthusiasts come to purchase crafts and fine art from artisans living and working in the district. That’s what the city of Racine envisions for the Uptown Artist Relocation District.

The city is basing its vision on the Lower Town Fine Arts District in Paducah, Ky., a national model for reviving an arts district.

The Paducah Artists Relocation Program has transformed a once-blighted neighborhood into a hub of cultural activity. A historic 1917 Texaco Station in the heart of Lower Town serves as an information and tourist center. There are more than 60 artists’ studios and galleries are nestled among restaurants, gourmet coffee shops and specialty shops.

When the program began nine years ago, it offered tax benefits and generous market value loans for artists to remodel existing buildings or build structures on lots available for as little as $1.

Now, just like the Paducah project, Racine is hoping to entice developers to submit proposals for the first of three buildings in the Uptown Artist Relocation District. The two-story, 5,280-square-foot building is located at 1418 Washington Ave. The building will then be sold to the selected developer for just $1.

Although developers do not have to adhere strongly to an arts emphasis, this project has to be consistent with the Uptown District environment, according to Brian O’Connell, city development director.

Another building at 1511 Washington Ave. will also be offered to developers for $1 later this year after the roof is replaced. And the first building purchased at 1526 Washington Ave. has been entirely remodeled at the city’s expense and will be required to have more of an arts emphasis. At this point, though, the city is debating various development options for the building.

Having a thriving arts district can only benefit a city, just ask the folks in Paducah, Ky.

Jan Basina is a data reporter with The Daily Reporter. She can be reached at (414) 225-1817.

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