The Salvation Army moved one step closer this week to its goal of transforming the area located at 630 E. Washington Ave. from being a standalone, drop-in shelter for women and families into a larger campus that includes affordable housing and services.
On Monday night, the Madison Finance Committee approved $500,000 from the city’s Affordable Housing Fund to help pay for a proposed 44-unit apartment building that would be on the portion of the campus located along East Mifflin Street.
The Shield Apartments, as the proposal calls them, will have 37 of the 44 proposed units reserved for affordable housing. Most of the units will be set aside for residents at or below 30% of area median income. According to City of Madison documents on the proposal , the maximum income limits for 30% AMI in the Madison metropolitan area is $21,090 for one person and $24,120 for two persons.
The proposal calls for all of the units to include Wi-Fi, a washer and dryer and kitchen amenities.
The Salvation Army is seeking additional funding from a Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority grant.
“We’re in the process of filling out WHEDA application forms and will submit them on Dec. 6,” said Major Andrew Shiels, executive director of the Salvation Army of Dane County. “That grant would come next year if we are awarded it. It is a competitive process. The Shield Apartments have the potential of breaking ground at the end of next year if that all falls into place.”
On Nov. 11, the Salvation Army received approval from the Plan Commission to move forward with a proposal that calls for the demolition of its current shelter for women and families at 630 E. Washington Ave. and the construction of a five-story building that would include an emergency shelter for women and families, health services, a place of worship, recreational facilities and counseling services.
The shelter is the only drop-in shelter in the county available for women and families. However, the shelter aspect of the proposed site is being funded separately from the affordable housing aspect.
“The shelter is not included in the Shield part of the project,” Shiels said. “That’s going to be funded through a capital campaign. The shovel in the ground at the shelter will be when we can get funds, which is about $15 million. Right now, we’re testing to see the capacity for fundraising. This is going to include individual donors and business partnerships. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for us to do this. We’re excited and we’ve been working through this process for a number of years. The community knows the need and the cold weather provides a reminder that we’re still denying families and we don’t want to be in that position if we don’t have to be.”
Shiels was referring to a lack of space at the current shelter leading to approximately 16 families per night being turned away from the shelter over the course during warm weather months. Now that winter weather has arrived, the space gets even more crowded.
“We have what’s defined as cold weather nights where we don’t deny access to the shelter,” Shiels said. “But there’s no good time to ever deny families. To have snow as early as we did this year, that was not a good sign. We try to accommodate what we can and provide a safe environment.”
To that end, area residents and members of the Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association said they want to make sure the Salvation Army is providing security and improving conditions around the shelter right now so that when the warm weather returns, they will be better equipped to address safety concerns in the area.
“An improvement in security — not just in the new development, but ASAP is what’s needed,” outgoing TLNA president Patty Prime said. “That was the most discussed key. I drove down by there the other night. I will say that the cold weather always calms things down. It’s been pretty quiet along the Mifflin corridor.”
Prime pointed out that even under the best possible timeline, the Salvation Army won’t have the new facility up and going when the warm weather and security concerns return.
“I don’t think they have all of their funding in line,” Prime said. “They’re putting in an application to WHEDA. That will have to be approved yet. So, it’s a long process.”
When the Salvation Army’s proposal came before Plan Commission on Nov. 14, several Tenney-Lapham residents voiced opposition. Many of them said they were not opposed to the idea of a restructured shelter, but virtually all were opposed to the way the Salvation Army has conducted itself as a neighbor. The Plan Commission wound up adding conditions for granting conditional use that called for quarterly meetings with area residents, the Salvation Army and city officials in order to heal the divides that have existed over the shelter.
But Prime said the onus to do that work is not on the residents of the neighborhood.
“The how-to hasn’t been decided,” Prime said. “The specific responsibility will be on the Salvation Army and city of Madison, not the neighborhood association. Neighbors want to participate and have an improved relationship with the Salvation Army. But either way it’s on the Salvation Army because it’s their condition for being approved.”
Prime said she personally was in favor of the proposal because she believes that it will address some of the security concerns around the current shelter space.
Ald. Patrick Heck, whose district includes the shelter, said he was not certain that a final document of agreement has been signed to codify the meetings.
“I, however, plan to organize a meeting soon, so that all the stakeholders can start planning for the future, build ongoing relationships, and address lingering issues related to the redevelopment,” Heck said in an email, adding that details on that meeting are yet to be determined.
Sheils said the next step in the process on the Salvation Army’s side of things is to come before the City Council for final approvals. He expects that to happen on Dec. 3, although that meeting’s agenda has not yet been finalized.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” Shiels said. “And we’re excited.”