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South Madison neighbors want city to rethink location of affordable housing project

South Madison neighbors want city to rethink location of affordable housing project

Heartland Housing site (copy)

The site of a proposed permanent housing for the homeless at 1202 S. Park St., the site of a former print shop.

An apartment building proposed for 1202 S. Park St. will include 58 units for homeless single adults. Neighbors would rather see those units going in to a property slated for two blocks away at 1402 S. Park St., but city officials say it's too late to change plans.

The Bay Creek Neighborhood Association's Planning & Economic Development Committee has written a letter to the city and Ald. Sara Eskrich, who represents the area, stating that the majority of respondents to a survey are in favor of placing permanent supportive housing at 1402 S. Park St., instead of the 1202 site.

The city owns the 3.5 acre property at 1402 S. Park St., formerly the Truman Olson United States Army Reserve Center.

The city issued a request for proposals for a neighboring business to purchase and develop the site. Neighbors include Wingra Building Group, Shenandoah Apartments LLC, Welton Family LTP and Midwest Real Estate Properties.

The RFP lists several goals for the property, including connecting Cedar Street to Appleton Road, keeping a grocery store in the area, increasing the tax base and developing affordable workforce housing. RFP responses are due April 13 with a proposal selection slated for June.

The 1202 project will be called Park Street Apartments by Heartland Housing. The project is estimated to cost $11.6 million dollars and the city has committed $1.9 million from its Affordable Housing Fund.

The project for the homeless was put on hold after the developer failed to receive needed federal tax credits last year. In August, the city stepped forward to help the developer by purchasing the property for $640,000. The project applied for federal WHEDA credits a second time, and the city expects a decision around March 1.

That’s where the neighborhood sees an opportunity to switch up plans. If the project does not receive those credits, the letter asks Ald. Sara Eskrich and city planning staff to discuss “the best placement of assisted housing in Bay Creek.”

If the site does receive WHEDA credits, the neighborhood would still like to meet with those parties, along with Heartland Housing and WHEDA, to discuss improvements at the site.

Neighbors also want to be more involved in the planning process for the 1402 property, asking for copies of RFP proposals and to meet with the city, landowners and Eskrich in two weeks to discuss plans for the site.

The BCNA’s letter is based on a recent neighborhood survey, which drew 110 responses.

About 69 percent of respondents said that it’s important to add permanent supportive housing in the neighborhood, but about 76 percent thought that there wasn’t enough parking at 1202 S. Park St. to accommodate the proposed development.

This was echoed in the comments of the survey, where neighbors expressed concerns about the parking, lack of green space on the site and the busy intersection at Park Street and West Olin Avenue.

The survey also found 63 percent of respondents said it was important for the city to consider using 1402 Park. St. for affordable housing.

A few weeks ago and before the BCNA’s letter, Department of Planning, Community & Economic Development director Natalie Erdman said moving permanent supportive housing from the 1202 S. Park St. site is “not an option for us at this time.”

“We have moved a long way down the road to having that site development as permanent affordable housing,” Erdman said.

The city owns the property, and it’s been specifically planned for permanent affordable housing, she said. There’s been a number of neighborhood meetings about the site, and the City Council has approved resolutions identifying that site for affordable housing, Erdman said.

Neither Erdman nor Eskrich had yet had time to review the BCNA letter and comment on whether they could perform any of the listed steps. In an email, Eskrich said there was still time for neighborhood input on the projects.

"One point I want to make clear -- new developments along Park St. will require land use approvals, which include neighborhood input opportunities. We are not yet at the land use approval phase for either of the potential projects discussed in the letter," she wrote. 

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