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Bridge Lake Point Waunona Neighborhood Center

The Bridge Lake Point Waunona Neighborhood Center, now at 1917 Lake Point Drive in Madison, could get a new, multi-million dollar home on a nearby site.

After years of searching, Madison is eyeing a site for a new, multimillion-dollar Bridge Lake Point Waunona Neighborhood Center that’s immediately south of the existing tiny and worn facility on the South Side.

The current, 5,200-square-foot neighborhood center was established on the first floor of an apartment building at 1917 Lake Point Drive, formerly Simpson Street, in the mid-1990s when the neighborhood was one of the city’s most notorious places. It’s been managed by the Vera Court Neighborhood Center since 2004.

“The city recognizes that Bridge Lake Point Waunona is not adequate,” city planning, economic and community development director Natalie Erdman said. “It was supposed to be temporary. We have increasing uses there. We think this (new) site offers some great opportunities for a standalone community center.”

Community Development Division Director Jim O’Keefe added, “We remain committed to making something happen there. We want very badly to work with the neighborhood to replace that facility.”

Under a city preferred option, the city would obtain two parcels to the immediate south owned by the city’s Community Development Authority at 5330 Hoboken Road and 1918 West Broadway. The CDA is a separate political entity.

The exact terms of an acquisition are undetermined. In 2003, the city advanced $738,000 to the CDA for CDA efforts to improve Lake Point Drive. The CDA has repaid $500,000 but still owes the city $238,000. The CDA’s properties, meanwhile, are appraised at about $230,000, Erdman said. The city could forgive the CDA’s debt in exchange for the two parcels or do some sort of land swap involving a city-owned property at 1910 Lake Point Drive, she said.

Either move would allow the city to continue operations at the existing neighborhood center until the new one is completed.

“I am really supporting this site, (but) I’m leaving this open to make sure this is what the residents want,” said Ald. Sheri Carter, 14th District, adding that the combination of city funding and a location will re-energize the community on the matter.

The city will discuss possibilities for the CDA site and other options at a neighborhood meeting set for Aug. 28 at the Bridge Lakepoint Waunona neighborhood center.

The land acquisition would mark the second attempt to create a new neighborhood center in the area in recent years.

In late 2015, nonprofit Movin’ Out and Mirus Partners Inc. proposed a controversial project with a 14,000-square-foot neighborhood center on the first floor topped by 36 lower-cost housing units at 2230 W. Broadway. Under that plan, when the building was completed, the developers would have razed the existing neighborhood center for 12 townhouses on that property.

The proposal, controversial because it placed the neighborhood center in an apartment building next to a bar, collapsed due to a lack of city funding for the public space. The city had hoped to deliver $2 million in tax incremental financing (TIF) for the neighborhood center, but in January 2017 the city attorney’s office determined the use was not eligible for TIF support under state law.

Movin’ Out and Mirus are scheduled to open a housing project with 48 lower-cost units and no neighborhood center at 2230 W. Broadway this fall.

The city’s capital budget includes $2 million for a new neighborhood center in 2018, including $1.4 million in federal funds and $600,000 from the city’s share of excess funds from the closure of TIF district No. 27 in the area.

The size and programming of a new facility have not been decided and the city won’t move forward with any plans without fully engaging the neighborhood, Erdman said, adding that city communication for the previous project were inadequate.

The facility may cost more than $2 million and may depend on some private fundraising, O’Keefe said. The timing of construction will depend on arriving at a neighborhood consensus on site and uses, and funding, he said.

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Dean Mosiman covers Madison city government for the Wisconsin State Journal.