FAQ Capitol/Park Theater ~Racine Wisconsin~

UPDATE: The City of Racine razed this 1928 historic landmark Feb-March 2021. This raze was So Wrong.

Is this 1928 Capitol/Park Theater of historical importance?

Yes, it is one of the last great theaters that were built in Racine in that era that can still be restored and be of pride and value to the public. Part one of the application for the National and State Historic Register has been completed, and it qualifies! The original façade, original stage, proscenium, and many other architectural features still remain. The City of Racine designated it a Landmark Building on Dec. 1, 2020  (but it still has the raze order on it!) We are so fortunate to have this treasure, let’s not lose it. It is important for Racine and all of Racine County. 

Is it true that this raze order is “court-ordered”? 

NO. There is NO court order for this raze. The Court only dismissed the owner’s appeal against the raze because his attorney missed the deadline. The Court did NOT order this raze on this historic building (case number A.P. #2018AP1784).

In other words, the Court of Appeals ruled that the current owner could not contest the order because his attorney turned in his paperwork after the deadline. The court did not look at whether or not this is actually a building that needs to be razed. The court NEVER reviewed the building’s condition at all, or what the city says needs to be fixed. The court was only upholding the deadline date that the owner missed – nothing else. The City did not have to prove that the building needs to be razed. Contact your City of Racine alders as soon as possible to ask for an updated review before it might be razed.

Can you repair the building?  YES! we could have.
We hade raised the MONEY to make the Building Envelope safe!
On Fri. Feb 5, 2021, we submitted our 7-page Development & Restoration Plan to the City: Mayor & Aldermen.  (As of Feb. 23, 2021 we have not heard from the city about our submitted PLAN, and that is the day the raze started.)

   A 7-page development Plan was submitted to the Racine City officials, but they have not responded about it at all. The non-profit group  has raised the MONEY to protect the building envelope, (roof repairs, essential exterior brick walls)  and to carry a $1 million liability policy immediately. —The several phased plan includes getting the 3 apartments and 2 store fronts up to code and rented, which then generate revenue. —Acquiring the final approval for historic listing which results in a major economic benefit for all work: repairs, restoration and bringing up to code all mechanicals(electrical, plumbing, HVAC, etc. ) and a new roof system several years down the line.   The lobby will be a small venue, unto itself, for gatherings; which will also generate income.  Restoration grants and fundraising are part of every phase.   


………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..–WHERE IS THE EVICENCE???? needed to raze this historic landmark?–>Where is the required inspection “Written Report”  that describes the particulars that are structurally “unsafe???”  (Racine ordinance 18-38 requires these critical items to be written!)
> The city is not following legal procedure.  This step was not done.
>Two structural engineers and an architect (with structural standing) have said the building is NOY in danger of imminent collapse! Where is the city Building inspector’s evidence otherwise?  How can a building be razed when there is no recorded evidence?   Ask your alders and officials: where is the evidence?

> ONLY 1 person, inspector Ken Plaski, has said this bldg. should be razed. No one reviews or checks his work. He has no superiors.  The city council did NOT vote to raze it, ( only allowed to vote on hiring a contractor to raze it!)
> The courts DIDN’T look at the building condition at all (the documents for late, so they refused to rule on the building.)   The public doesn’t want this building razed!  The public wants this building saved!

Plaski says over and over the roof would collapse in a big snow storm, but it hasn’t. (almost 18” on snow on the roof right now).   He makes verbal statements that are not backed up with any structural evaluations, and not in any written inspection reports! 
> ASK FOR the written inspection report required in Ordinance 18-38.



It is now too late to save the building?  Update March 2021:
The City of Racine, by order of Inspector Plaski and Mayor Mason, has razed this 1928 historic landmark building, now gone from Racine’s unique history.

NOW, IT IS NOT TOO LATE. The building was stable per two structural engineers and an architect. The citizens raised the money needed for the immediate exterior repairs, and all that was needed was  to PAUSE THE RAZE ORDER! More and more aldermen saw the possibilities! Remember: now razed, this history is gone forever. 

Why did the city want to raze it? 
We really don’t know why. Some repairs were immediately needed to securely protect the building from the weather, but nothing bad enough to raze! The City thinks it needed to be razed, but THEY DID HAVE ANOTHER AND BETTER OPTION: citizens who wanted to save and restore it!  WHY didn’t the city give the citizens time to protect the building, raise the money to bring it back to a positive community asset? Why? 

So, what was the building’s actual condition
It has been evaluated by two structural engineers and and an architect. They found it was stable, solidly constructed brick building (and, contrary to rumors, its basement is dry).  In Nov. 2020, a drone was used to photograph the condition of the roof and brick walls. A few roof leaks and some exterior masonry needed repair. The amazing original theater stage, elaborate decorative proscenium, original curtains, orchestra pit, stenciling, ornamental plasterwork, wide ceiling cove,  decorative dome, and arches STILL EXISTED.
The City of Racine, by order of Inspector Plaski and Mayor Mason, has razed this 1928 historic landmark building of Racine’s unique history.  Ask they WHY?

How much is it costing the city taxpayers to raze this historic building?
$200,000! This is an abuse of taxpayer money when there is a group who wants to repair and restore the Capitol/Park Theater. Once it is razed, all you have is another empty city lot.  While it will become a lien against the property, it will never be collected. 

How does the 501(c)3 acquire ownership of the Capitol Theater building? This scenario could have happened:

  1. If the County would foreclose on the property, transfer it to the city, the city is then able (if willing) to give it to a non-profit 501(c)3 organization (without passing on the back taxes.)  (We would pay for a rider on the city’s insurance policy to cover the liability of the building during this process) And better yet, we cold do the repairs to make the building envelope safe, even before the city would be involved!
  2. This process has occurred in other circumstances, such as for some Habitat for Humanity properties. At the Oct. 28, 2020, public city meeting of the Planning Heritage & Design  Commission; the Racine Mayor described this process as something the city has done before.
  3. Acquiring ownership through this process is possible. Immediately there are some roof repairs and masonry work that must be done. 

How much would it have cost to restore itBids for the first phase is $39,900 of immediate repairs  which will secure the building envelope from the weather and prevent further deterioration. The costs to bring the building up to code, including restoration,  new roof, interior, all new mechanicals, lighting equipment, seating, etc. would be raised and needed over 6-7 years, bringing the storefronts and apartments up to code in the 2nd phase, to generate income for the property.  Phase 2 also incudes the final step to be listed on the National Historic Register which then offers 40% tax credits, essential to the financial plans of the project.     (In 2016 the bldg. was deemed eligible and met the National criteria,  determined by the Wisconsin Historical Society) 

~ Built in 1928, the 100th anniversary of the Capitol Theater is just 7 years away. ~
FAQ Capitol/Park Theater, Racine Wisconsin

What does the Building Inspector say? The City of Racine Chief Building Inspector, Ken Plaski, has made sweeping negative statements in public meetings and in the press that have never been written in required reports. WHILE in a public meeting, he did confirm that the building could be saved. –Per the city’s minutes: “[City Inspector] Plaski stated any structure can be saved with the proper know-how, money, effort, and time.” –He is correct about this: it can be saved.-—- BUT his verbal statements are the opposite of what 3 professionals (2 are structural engineers) have said: the building is not in danger of collapse, that it is well built and can be repaired.  He says “it might blow over in a big wind.” Is that a professional evaluation? (NO)
>The Racine Ordinance 18-38 requires him to describe in a WRITTEN NOTICE
”  THAT HAS NOT BEEN DONE.  – Report this to your officials!


What building lost its facade, as the Building Inspector keeps saying?  
The building to the west of the theater lost its facade during tornado-level winds in 2013 (and it was repaired, not razed). The Capitol Theater next to it withstood the storm without a scratch, so it is strongly built. So he should stop comparing these buildings. They are not the same.

What would we have done with this theater once restored
A multi-purpose historic and beautiful public venue for stage productions, concerts, conventions,  symphonies, special events, movies, receptions, celebrations, exhibits, lectures, Wurlitzer organ performances; and how about a vaudeville festival, and a Les Paul week! Classes, radio broadcasts, tourists, small gatherings in the lobby as its own venue make it a multi-purpose building.  The 2 small storefronts offer specialty retail and restaurant opportunities. It will be a beautiful historic venue for Racine area residents and tourists alike. 

Parking? if we had saved the building:
Bus tours of tourists can pull up and unload; area parking meets Racine ordinance standards. There may also be rented parking from large nearby lots, and public parking exists throughout West Racine.  If it is a larger event, valet parking is possible.  Many people value walking a few blocks for their health, as well.  There are smaller events, classes, programs that can take place in the lobby, and other areas of the venue that would only involve small numbers attending, so we would not need large amounts of parking at once for these uses.

Who is involved with saving the Capitol Theater
Citizens of different backgrounds have been working on this effort since 2018. The Capitol Theater Friends group welcomes all to participate.   Once the building is ready to restore, an independent non-profit for the Capitol Theater will be formed. We welcome your help. 

How can I help
Visit the website for a few ways to help. Join the committee, tell your friends, contact your Racine alders,  follow us on Facebook (facebook.com/friendsofthecapitoltheater/), share our posts on FB.

Sorry, pledges are no longer accepted, as the building was razed Feb. 23-March 2021. Thank-you to those who made a pledge to show support
Pledges would have  only be collected when the 501(c)3 acquired the building and had signed contracts for the immediate roof and masonry repairs. If that didn’t happen, the pledge will never be collected. Your pledge helped the city to see that we could do this! 
March 2021 UPDATE: we had a land contract signed by the owner, liability insurance lined up and bids from the roof and masonry contractors! but the City of Racine razed it anyhow. WHY?


The city had an OPTION to razing the historic building:
but they ignored it and razed it anyhow. 
~The citizen group who would have 
repaired and restored the Capitol Theater~ 

Please contact officials: let them know this raze was So Wrong, or it could happen again to another historic property in Racine.
Stop Razing Racine History!

We appreciate your interest and concern.
Please send questions, ideas, and comments.