OUR VIEW: Chrysler site “innovation neighborhood” idea might need a little tweaking | Editorial

Tom Rogers, presenter and a principal of the SmithGroup, discusses the proposed Kenosha Innovation Neighborhood plans with dozens of residents who turned out for the second in a series of information and public input sessions Tuesday night at the former Brown Bank building, 2222 63rd St.

Terry Flores

It is easy to get excited about plans for the former Chrysler factory site between 52nd and 60th Streets, east of 30th Avenue. Plans for redevelopment of this 107-acre brownfield site even has a catchy name: Kenosha Innovation Neighborhood.

A second public meeting was held Tuesday to show off a consultant’s ideas and to collect public input. It is a solid method to approach a decidedly complex puzzle. Tom Rogers with SmithGroup, a highly respected design firm, walked those in attendance through several different scenarios for a potentially $1 billion project.


The redevelopment effort hopes to lift adjacent and nearby neighborhoods in the process, which is a noble goal. All of the proposed scenarios are anchored in the concept of innovation.

“An innovation district is not a research park. It is not a business park,” Rogers told the crowd. “We recognize that as an innovation district we want to be an innovation hub for Southeastern Wisconsin moving forward, and we want to create opportunities for young people to stay. Or, for our young people to come back,” he added.

And that is where the concept loses a bit of its luster. Rogers tried to avoid planting the notion that ideas and innovation occurs in a building, a neighborhood or a place designed for it. The problem is, that’s exactly what happens.

In many places that concept for redevelopment has failed miserably. One great example is a former GM facility in Kokomo, Indiana — Inventrek. With a high concept and support from two of the state’s powerhouse universities, it aimed to be a hub for innovation and progress. Today its tenants include a couple of coaches — business and life — as well as a maker of DIY banjo kits, a coffee company, a radio station and the Kokomo Automotive Museum. There is a welding company, which is sort of a tech firm, but little else in the facility screams “innovation.”

Ideas Automotive