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Salvation Army offering major redevelopment on Near East Side
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Salvation Army offering major redevelopment on Near East Side


The Salvation Army of Dane County is restarting a bid to redevelop its current building and perhaps surrounding properties on the Near East Side for a roughly $25 million project that would deliver a new homeless shelter, transitional housing units with support services, and income-based and non-subsidized apartments.

The nonprofit Salvation Army, which operates two distinct homeless shelters in its current building, the former St. Patrick’s Catholic School at 630 E. Washington Ave., had introduced preliminary redevelopment plans for that site in 2016, but pulled back as it worked with its regional hierarchy.

“Our space is so antiquated,” Salvation Army Capt. Andrew Shiels said. “We need to decide what to do with it. We’ve grown. Our building hasn’t grown.”

In 2018, the Salvation Army provided 23,752 nights of shelter to those in families and 16,582 to single women, social services executive director Melissa Sorenson said.

To address needs with proper facilities, the Salvation Army is now contemplating a project that would involve its own 1.34-acre site plus adjacent property. The nonprofit is under contract to buy a used car dealership at 648 E. Washington Ave., a building at 12 N. Blount St., a parking lot at 655 E. Mifflin St., and the QTI/U.S. Post Office building at 702 E. Washington, although the project likely wouldn’t involve the latter property with a possible resale. The other four sites are owned by Schlimgen Properties LLC.

As currently envisioned, the Salvation Army would demolish its existing two-story building and use adjacent properties on the block to develop two structures, Shiels said.

The first would be a homeless shelter with about 60 beds for single women, up from the current 35 to 45 beds in the existing facility, and capacity for 40-plus families, an increase from the 22 rooms now available, Shiels said. The building would have expanded, dedicated spaces for medical and dental clinics, and new space to dramatically expand mental health services.

The shelter building would also include a kitchen to continue meal service, office space for staff, services and partners, a gymnasium, and space for children’s activities, Shiels said.

Above the shelter would be about 25 single-room-occupancy units with bed, furniture, bath and shared kitchen space that would be rented for a minimal charge with no time limits, he said. “It’s kind of a stepping stone when they’re ready for the next step,” he said.

The height of the building, which would cost $10 million to $15 million, has not been determined, Shiels said.

Also on the property would be a three-story building costing about $10 million, with about 40 efficiency and one-bedroom apartments, he said. The building would provide a mix of income-based and non-subsidized units.

The Salvation Army, which has not submitted land use plans, would seek city Affordable Housing Fund support and federal tax credits distributed by the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority to help finance the redevelopment, he said. The nonprofit will also launch a capital campaign to help fund the shelter project.

Area input

Near East Side Alds. Patrick Heck, 2nd District, and Marsha Rummel, 6th District, have scheduled a neighborhood meeting on the Salvation Army’s concepts on June 6 at 6 p.m. at Lapham School, 1045 E. Dayton St.

“Everything is tentative at this point,” Heck stressed. “There are many hoops to jump through and hurdles to get over before they can implement their ideas. There are ongoing issues (at the current site), particularly with nearby neighbors, and any improvement in that would be welcome. But the devil will be in the details.”

Concerns include a high number of police calls, disturbances, trespassing and drug use, often by people who hang around but are not using the shelter, Heck said.

The redevelopment will allow the Salvation Army to address security problems and improve the appearance of the site, Shiels said.

“We’re looking to make sure we address concerns of the neighborhood,” he said. “We want to do it the right way.”

New approaches

The Salvation Army purchased its current building when St. Patrick’s school closed in 1977 and has been working for years to replace the aging, resource-draining, structure. In 2013, it announced plans to sell the East Washington Avenue site and move its shelter services to an expanded campus at 3030 Darbo Drive next to Worthington Park.

That plan was dropped after meeting quick resistance from neighbors and city officials, who feared the already-struggling Worthington Park neighborhood was not a good place to locate homeless people in need of intense social services.

In August 2016, the Salvation Army proposed to demolish the current building for a six-story structure that would update its homeless shelter for single women and families and add long-term housing and support services for destitute renters looking to get their lives back on track. But three months later, it indefinitely delayed applications for city funds and state-issued federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit needed to finance the project.

For many years, the Salvation Army offered a 90-day shelter program for up to 18 families who received case management, plus placement of more families at motels, and a drop-in shelter for about five families every night. Both shelters operated at capacity, and families often were turned away with no other options.

But in late 2016, it replaced the 90-day program with rapid rehousing, which gets homeless people into stable and permanent housing. Instead of getting a room on the second floor of the Salvation Army building, families are placed in apartments with case management including weekly meetings with social workers and budget assistance as long as needed.

Meanwhile, the space for the 90-day shelter was converted to additional drop-in shelter space for families, substantially increasing capacity.

Since the inception of the rapid rehousing program in 2016, the Salvation Army has permanently housed 441 people, including 46 single women and 125 families, Sorensen said.

The Salvation Army hopes to break ground on the redevelopment in the next year or two, Shiels said.


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