Urban renewal plan goes before city council
By Patrick Yost
While it may take two decades, dramatic change could be coming to Madison.
Monday night the Madison City Council was given the first presentation of a visionary economic development plan created by the Madison Downtown Development Authority (DDA).
The plan, according to DDA members and Madison planner Monica Callahan, will improve neighborhoods, the housing stock and commercial and industrial districts. Callahan said the plan is focused on six areas as part of the newly tagged Downtown Urban Redevelopment Area (DURA). Those areas include the West Washington Street gateway, the Canaan Historic Neighborhood, North Second Street, the Airport Industrial Area and the North Main Street gateway.
Several members of the DDA addressed the council Monday and said the plan, if approved by the city council, would enable the city to qualify for Community Block Development Grants to fund infrastructure improvements and a wide scope of work to improve the areas.
The plan was bolstered by an announcement at the meeting that Carroll Simpson and her brother, Howard Brandon, had donated a parcel of land near Bull Street that complements a 3.5-acre parcel the DDA purchased last month for $85,000. That property will begin the process of revitalizing the West Washington gateway area.
“The idea is to reinforce and revitalize those neighborhoods,” Callahan told the council. Detailed copies of the plan are available at Madison City Hall.
The city council will hold a public hearing on the plan at its April 25 meeting.
Shandon Land, chairman, DDA, told the council that the ambitious revitalization plan would, in time, create economic opportunities by creating investor confidence. “People have lost confidence in those areas, so those areas cannot thrive.”
“We are attempting to strengthen the downtown core,” she said.
Under a slide show of dilapidated structures and vacant lots, the council heard DDA members tout the plan as a way to “give new life” to neighborhoods and commercial zones by implementing opportunity zones with hiring-tax breaks and urban redevelopment areas that lend themselves to federally funded improvements.
However, Land said, the overall plans would have to fit neighborhood needs. “I want to assure you there is no plan to displace any residents,” she said.
Instead, she said, the DDA was incorporating comprehensive renewal projects that would, in some cases, remove “abandoned structures that do not contributed to the quality of life to people in those neighborhoods.”
If approved, Land said, the DDA would not use eminent domain to secure property. “That’s not a tool we’re looking at,” she said.
The creation of “enterprise zones” and opportunity zones would, planners said, entice development. “I think the most important thing we can do is create that optimism,” Land said.
“It is my opinion that we can execute this plan and attract private developers,” DDA member Everett Royal said. “There are so many things we can do, so many exciting things we can do.”
Printed in the April 14, 2011 edition