Possible uses for the old Kenosha Engine Plant site

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What to do with the old Kenosha Engine Plant site?

A little history on the site:  The factory opened in 1917 and was acquired by Chrysler with their purchase of American Motors in August, 1987.  On May 1, 2009, Chrysler announced that the Kenosha Engine plant was to close by the end of 2010 as a result of Chrysler’s bankruptcy and restructuring plan.  The buildings have 1,900,000 square feet of floor space, and the property is located on 106 acres at 5555 – 30th Avenue, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  The opening of the 3.5-liter engine line, in 2002, came after the company invested $624 million in a 450,000-square-foot expansion of the plant.  As of May, 2009, employment at this facility was approximately 800 workers.  Kenosha Engine was one of the Chrysler Group powertrain plants that scored at the top of their segment according to the 2007 Harbour Report for North America, a broadly accepted measure of productivity in the automotive industry.  The last engine was produced on October 22, 2010.

This abandoned engine factory in Kenosha will be razed and cleaned up for development under an agreement between the City of Kenosha, the State of Wisconsin, the DNR, and Federal officials.  Under the agreement, the Old Carco Liquidiation Trust will turn over ownership of the property to the City of Kenosha after millions of dollars in industrial machinery is sold and the buildings are demolished, including a 500,000-square-foot facility that was state of the art only a few short years ago.  Old Carco unsuccessfully tried to market the site to other industrial users.  It will get money from the sale of the machinery and will pay for demolition work, but not the cleanup.  Ten million dollars ($10 million) in Federal Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds will be available for the cleanup.  Federal, State, and City officials will administer the funds and oversee the work.  This site could someday be used for residential or commercial purposes.

The city has experience pumping new life into abandoned industrial sites, including a former American Motors Corp. site on the lakefront that’s now home to a park, two museums, and harbor-side condominiums.  It also redeveloped the former American Brass foundry site, 27 acres left vacant when the foundry was torn down and now home to a school, a grocery store, and bank.

Some ideas for usage of the site:

  • “We came to the conclusion that it would be very difficult to market the site as industrial.  It’s a wide open palette at this point, but I suspect the site will have some kind of mixed use, although we are not even close to going down that road yet.” – Mayor Keith Bosman
  • “Ideally, another industrial factory.  Possibly, an urban college site.  Realistically, a combination of retail and residential.” – Alderperson Jan Michalski
  • “I think the scope is wide open.  Once the city takes receipt of the property, and the clean up is complete, the possibilities are endless.  I wouldn’t want to limit the ideas or concepts that could occur.  I believe our job is making that parcel an attractive area for private development to come in.  With the economic recovery plans the Council has passed, i.e., JOBSNOW, and WET, I believe we can package the land and incentives for a host of commercial and mixed uses.  As sad as it is for the thousands who have worked there over the years, its also exciting to be on the ground floor of the start of something new and exciting for the city of Kenosha.  More to come!” – Alderperson David Bogdala

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