- ROOTWORKS -
This plan envisions the rebirth of the Root River Corridor as the heart of the City and a hub for economic growth by capitalizing on Racine’s unique geography within the Chicago-Milwaukee MegaCity.
The Root River: a Natural Gem, an Economic Engine
The Root River has supported communities since the area's first inhabitants walked its banks. For many years industrial cities like Racine used their rivers as the primary form of transportation for commerce. This historical use created urban landscapes that hid rivers behind warehouses and industrial buildings. This arrangement provided the economic foundation for Racine. In keeping with changing methods of transport and production, manufacturing along the Root River has given way to marinas, residences, and retail uses. Despite these changes, the only interaction many people have with the Root River is when driving over it while commuting around town.
Our changing economic times are providing an opportunity to redevelop the river in a way that will allow residents and visitors to access this valuable natural amenity. Racine is redeveloping and careful consideration has been made to determine how areas like downtown and the lakefront are redeveloped. The goal of the Root River Council is to involve the community and include community input in efforts to revitalize the Root River.
Current and future developments along and near the Root River are a positive addition to downtown that will serve as an economic engine for Racine.
The Root River Council has created an Urban Root River Plan that includes recommendations to balance this redevelopment with improving the water quality and public access to the Root River.
Back to the Root: An Urban River Revitalization Plan is a vision for the Root River that was created by the Root River Council based on more than a year’s worth of public input. The plan lays out recommendations to bring a positive focus back to the Root River within the City of Racine. A PDF (1.5mb) of the entire plan can be viewed here. The plan has four main goals:
Create a sense of place
Stimulate economic growth
Allow public access and interaction
Improve Water quality
Background on River Redevelopment:
Courtesy of Michigan State University
Urban waterfronts began as commerce centers. They survived on trade. Whether a city or town was located on an inland river or an ocean port, its main focus was on the transportation of goods via water. In the 18 th , 19 th and early 20 th centuries, as the industrial revolution began to take shape and shipping and manufacturing began to become powerful sectors in economic growth, waterfronts too moved forward. The bulk transport of cargo required that manufacturing be done near the port, reducing further transportation costs. This resulted in the building of massive industrial buildings and warehouses along all types of waterfronts, from inland river towns to massive ocean ports.
As trade was focused on the waterfront, the city center was often located as close as possible to the water. The remnants of the development is visible in almost any modern city (located near water) today. In New York , Boston , Chicago , Paris , London and Amsterdam , to name a few, waterfront property figures prominently in the view of the city's commercial center.
Urban waterfronts, in the beginning of their development, however, lacked one main type of land use residential. While sailors and some traders may have lived near the waterfront, the land was typically devoid of the upper class, the rising middle class, and even the lower class. Waterfronts were bustling commerce centers, but often dirty and smelly due to manufacturing and waterfront industrial uses, and people tended to avoid them in order to live in more peaceful areas. The lack of residential living may be one of the causes of the earlier demise of waterfront property. Now the inclusion of new residential property in redeveloped waterfronts is crucial.
In the early and mid-20th century, waterfronts began to change. Transportation on water began to switch from bulk to container shipping, allowing massive waterfront transfer stations to be bypassed and left for other uses. It has been noted that there is no one main reason for the flight of manufacturing from cities, many factors are indeed involved. However, the new ease by which parts and materials could be transferred by container on rails and roads did permit manufacturing to move further and further from ports. As shipyards, bulk transfer facilities, warehouses and manufacturing facilities became vacant, urban waterfronts were left with large tracts of under-used, misused, and empty property. These properties often went into decay and became the eyesores of the community.