Tuesday, February 2, 2010

From top to bottom in 10 years

Link to February 2 Kenosha News article.

Excerpt: As Kenosha County moved into a new century 10 years ago, it appeared to be a model of an old Rust Belt community on the rise.

In 2000 there was record low unemployment, new home construction was booming as a flood of Illinois residents moved across the border, new industrial parks were growing, and, seeming to cement the auto industry’s ties to the city, Chrysler invested $624 million in expanding the Kenosha Engine Plant to accommodate a new engine line.

The centerpiece to the bright outlook was the creation of HarborPark, the ambitious recreation of Kenosha’s lakefront, turning the site of a shuttered auto plant into an urban showplace, a mix of parks, museums and upscale condominiums.

Ten years later, the real estate industry has plummeted, the county’s industrial parks are scattered with new and completely empty buildings built on speculation, unemployment is at decades-high levels, and Chrysler has announced it plans to close its engine plant.

And while HarborPark has proved to be the jewel city planners envisioned, developers’ hopes to piggyback on its success have largely failed, most spectacularly in the nine-story Virginia Towers condominium development overlooking the site, which now sits empty, the subject of a foreclosure battle.

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