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Madison to deliver $250,000 for Center for Black Excellence and Culture
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Madison to deliver $250,000 for Center for Black Excellence and Culture

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Center for Black Excellence and Culture

A preliminary rendering of the roughly $20 million Center for Black Excellence and Culture proposed for the 700 block of West Badger Road on the south side. 

Madison is moving to provide $250,000 to support development of the roughly $20 million Center for Black Excellence and Culture on the South Side.

The nonprofit center is working to raise money for the project, seen in preliminary concepts to be about 55,000 square feet on 3.5 acres in the 700 block of West Badger Road.

Once completed, the center is envisioned as a place to develop Black-owned businesses, celebrate Black culture and history and become a landmark at the prominent city gateway at the Beltline and South Park Street.

The initiative was founded by the Rev. Dr. Alex Gee, Jr., pastor of Fountain of Life Covenant Church and founder/CEO of the nonprofit Nehemiah Center of Urban Leadership, who is leading a community-wide effort to bring the project to reality.

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and City Council President Sheri Carter, 13th District on the South Side, have introduced a resolution to provide $250,000 for the initiative from the city’s $2.5 million Small Business and Equity Recovery program, which was announced in October. The program was created to correct historic and current inequities in funding and support for small businesses owned by people of color.

“This is an important way for us to support, honor and promote our Black community, its leaders and businesses,” Rhodes-Conway said in a statement on Monday. “Our community needs spaces like this center, and I appreciate Dr. Gee’s leadership and vision in creating it. I truly look forward to its opening and operation.”

The city funding will support several of the center’s goals in its pre-development phase, including helping shape the project strategy, community outreach and engagement, architectural design, site development and capital fundraising, the mayor said. The financial contribution reflects the city’s commitment to work with the Black community by supporting a project that will promote healing and build enduring relationships, she said.

City committees will consider the funding with a decision by the full council at a later date.

“This funding serves as a representation of the City’s commitment to acknowledging and empowering its Black community,” Gee said. “We’re grateful to Mayor Rhodes-Conway and the city of Madison for embracing the center’s mission to uplift and nurture generations of Black excellence.”

Madison Youth Arts Center under construction at the corner of Mifflin and Ingersoll Streets

A public capital campaign to fund the construction and development of the center will be launched later this year with construction beginning in 2022.

Dane County has already provided $810,000 to support the project.

Dean Mosiman's memorable stories for 2020

In an unthinkable year dominated by COVID-19, I chose as my most memorable stories on struggles with homelessness, gun violence and handling of protests for racial equity, as well as pieces on big projects that will shape the city's future.

Early in the year, just before the COVID took hold, I teamed with photographers to look at the city's "barely humane" shelter system for homeless men in church basements. I've continued to cover how the pandemic forced changes in serving the homeless and the current search for a site for a new men's shelter. Meanwhile, many are addressing the needs, including Occupy Madison's opening of a "tiny hut" village on the East Side in December. 

In 2018, I did a four month project on gun violence in Madison, including a look at root causes and solutions. Tragically, the city experienced a record numbers of shots fired incidents and rise in shooting homicides this summer. The city and Dane County are now investing more in peer support to de-escalate tensions and a public health approach to violence.

The Black Lives Matter protests laid bare strains between many in the community and police. I tried to show how city officials struggle to protect protesters’ First Amendment rights while keeping citizens and property safe amid continuing unrest Downtown. 

Amid it all, in an expression of confidence in the local economy, Urban Land Interests offered and the city approved a complex, $125 million redevelopment that involves historic preservation, demolition and new construction on Capitol Square. And it was a joy to detail how the $35 million Madison Youth Arts Center, which will be a diverse hub for children and families, is quietly taking shape on the Near East Side. 

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