A long-awaited day resource center for Dane County’s homeless could finally materialize on Madison’s near east side this time next year.
The county has been pursuing a site for years and, on Wednesday, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced that the county has an accepted offer to purchase the former Messner Inc. property at 1326 E. Washington Ave. for $1.42 million.
“This community has waited many years for a one-stop-shop containing critical services to help those in need,” Parisi said in a press release.
The 19,000-square-foot building would have to be renovated and would include private offices for service providers, meeting rooms, showers, storage space, laundry facilities, meals and other services and facilities. It would focus both on meeting basic needs and providing services like training, mental health services and drug addiction treatment.
The county has been looking for a site for the center for years, settling more than a year ago on a site in the town of Madison at 1490 Martin St. That site drew critiques for its non-central location and significant opposition from the town, with the town successfully suing the county to require it to submit a conditional use permit. This new site selection means the county will abandon its efforts to obtain a conditional use permit for that site.
The county has also considered locations on Lien Road, at Bellini Italian Restaurant on East Washington Avenue and “dozens” more, according to the county, hitting issues with a combination of location, cost, size or condition concerns.
This site sits less than two miles down East Washington Avenue from the Capitol, between North Baldwin and Dickinson streets. It is accessible via bus and near emergency overnight shelters, several free meal sites and the Madison Central Library.
"I think we think it's workable," said Madison Community Development Division Director Jim O'Keefe.
"It’s maybe not ideal, you’d like it to be as close to the downtown as you can, so I think it's better than other sites that have been considered and maybe not as good as some other sites that have been considered," he said, noting the additional problems with the other sites.
"We look forward to working with them to help make it a successful facility," he said.
The purchase must be approved by the Dane County Board and the site needs approval from Madison for the conditional use of the property. With those processes and renovations underway, it will not be possible to use the site as a temporary shelter this winter, according to Dane County Executive Communications Director Stephanie Miller. The county plans to have the center open in October 2016.