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Monday, January 26, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 19.0° F  Light Snow Fog/Mist
The Daily
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Grocers in limbo as redevelopment plans for 800 East Washington Avenue fall through
Metcalfe's plan for the 800 block of East Washington, including a 60,000 square foot grocery store.
Metcalfe's plan for the 800 block of East Washington, including a 60,000 square foot grocery store.
Credit:CD Smith Construction Services

Jeff Maurer was looking forward to opening a branch of his Fresh Market Madison on East Washington Avenue. Urban Land Interests had asked him to consider being part of its redevelopment of the 800 block of East Washington and, after two independent surveys of the area, Maurer determined it was a great location for his second Madison grocery store.

"I saw the plans that ULI had developed and proposed, and I thought it was just a great looking building," said Maurer. "And the building was going to be so much better than what is currently sitting there with the old vacant Don Miller [car dealership] site. I really thought it was going to be a great gateway into the Capitol."

But on Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Paul Soglin announced that plans with the developer to construct retail, residential and office space, as well as a parking garage, on the north side of 800 East Washington Avenue had fallen through. The city issued a statement explaining that the taxes generated by the development would not justify the public assistance requested.

This did not surprise Ald. Marsha Rummel, whose district abuts the site of the proposed development. She had heard that the request for tax incremental financing was complicated, leaving "uncertainty for the city."

It also leaves some uncertainty for Maurer, who is still interested in expanding his market to East Washington Avenue, whether as part of a new development on the 800 block or at a different development site.

"I can only hope there's another project that comes along if 800 doesn't work," said Maurer. "I hope that there's another site that would become available nearby, that could support a small grocer like myself."

Maurer says he plans on contacting the city to express interest in other future developments in the area.

But Maurer is not the only grocer interested in the 800 block of East Washington. Metcalfe's Market proposed its own plan for the site, which would have included a grocery store, hotel and rooftop farm. But the grocer's proposal was submitted after the deadline.

Metcalfe's proposal piqued the interest of residents and alders in the area, even though the city was moving forward with Urban Land Interests.

"There was a lot of interest [in the Metcalfe proposal] in both neighborhoods, on both sides of the avenue," said Rummel.

Tim Metcalfe did not return phone calls for comment.

While Maurer still has his sights set on East Washington Avenue, he maintains friendly feelings towards his competition.

"I think he's a tremendous grocer," said Maurer of Metcalfe. "I think either one of us will do a lot for the community and bring future growth along that corridor."

It will be up to the city to determine who ends up on the 800 block of East Washington Avenue, where the north and south sides of the street have available real estate.

Ald. Satya Rhodes-Conway hopes the city will go back to the drawing board: "We probably should go out for another RFP."

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