суббота, 15 сентября 2012 г.


Byline: Samara Kalk Derby The Capital Times

More than 100 people turned out Monday night for a public workshop to tell city planners and consultants what they'd like to see in the redeveloped Villager Mall on South Park Street.

Overwhelmingly, neighborhood residents and other interested parties want a grocery store, farmers' market, teen center, day care center, incubator for start-up businesses, education and training facility, family restaurant, coffee shop, health club and senior center.

What they adamantly don't want: a pawn shop, a dollar store, a discount goods store, a bar and grill, fast food restaurants and an outdoor gathering space. There was also mild opposition to a sporting goods store, a miniature golf or game center, and a bowling alley.

In one of the largest investments to revitalize a neighborhood in Madison history, the City Council voted late last year to authorize the Community Development Authority to borrow $10 million to buy the outdated 9-acre mall along the 2200 and 2300 blocks of Park Street and rehabilitate it.

Because the mall was purchased through the complex New Markets Tax Credit program, the actual cost to the city will be $7 million and the investment will be paid off through the mall's cash flow, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said at the forum, held in the large lobby of Harambee, the Villager's centerpiece.

Noting that many city agencies have a presence in the mall, he added, 'It makes sense to own rather than rent.'

The tax credit program gives the private lender -- in this case, Park Bank -- tax credits for investing in a city-driven redevelopment project. The program requires the city to own the property for at least seven years.

Cieslewicz praised neighborhood Ald. Tim Bruer for coming to him with the idea to purchase the property and stabilize it.

'This could really be the anchor. It could really set the tone for redevelopment of the Park Street corridor,' Cieslewicz said, adding that he is not interested in gentrifying the neighborhood or stripping it of its diversity, but instead in playing a role in the area's 'renaissance.'

Monday's gathering was the city's first effort to solicit public input, and city officials were thrilled at the large, enthusiastic turnout.

Many of those who attended the event were stakeholders, affiliated with the numerous organizations and agencies that inhabit the 170,000 square feet of the property that is utilized.

The project is leaning toward service providers, but the architect, Timothy Hansmann of Kubala Washatko Architects Inc., said people don't want to lose the retail component.

'One thing that keeps coming up is that the current mall should be razed,' Hansmann said to some laughter and a couple of cheers.

The structure as it stands is not in terrible condition, but it is pieced together with retail spaces that are large and long, and not conducive to a vibrant city center, he said.

Deborah Hobbins, a Planned Parenthood regional vice president, said she would like to see health care and family support services maintained.

'There's a real benefit for the families in the neighborhood to have a comfort level, knowing where they can get health, child care and family support services,' she said.

Planned Parenthood has had a presence in the mall for 10 years and would like to expand its south side clinic, she said.

'There's a lot of need for our services in this community and neighborhood,' Hobbins added.

Marilyn Haynes, a computer software instructor at MATC who teaches a course in the Villager, said she would like to see a job opportunity center and a teen center in the redeveloped mall.

'A gathering place is needed for teens that is safe and provides opportunities for fun,' she said.

The mall should also be a service center for health needs, another necessity in the community, Haynes said, adding that she'd like to see a fitness center as well.

'The thing that people need most is jobs,' said James Huff, executive director of the faith-based community service agency The Nehemiah Community Development Corp. 'So anything you can do here that will enhance the local economy by providing jobs is what it's going to take to turn the community around.'

Huff said he had concerns that high-minded development would 'develop residents right out of the picture.' Park Street is a gateway to the city, from the Beltline to the university, he said.

'If you don't provide jobs that residents can walk to, then you are really missing the mark,' he added.


Harambee: The mall's major tenant is the city-run South Madison Health and Family Center-Harambee, which encompasses offices of the city of Madison Health Department, Dane County Health Department, Head Start, Family Enhancement, Madison Public Library, Access Community Health Center and Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.

Others: The mall also houses the Interfaith Coalition for Workers Justice, Madison-area Urban Ministry, a satellite location of Madison Area Technical College, a tax assistance center run by UW-Extension, a nail salon, an Asian grocery, a check cashing outlet and a sporting goods store, among other tenants.

E-mail: skalk@madison.com