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Thursday, December 18, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 16.0° F  Partly Cloudy
The Daily
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Madison seeks new proposals for 800 block of East Washington Avenue
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Rummel: Neighbors 'are really interested in a grocery store.'
Rummel: Neighbors 'are really interested in a grocery store.'

Madison will once again try to spur development on East Washington Avenue, and Tim Metcalfe, president of Metcalfe's Market, says he's still interested in building a grocery store there.

This week a city committee is putting the finishing touches on a request for proposals, which it hopes to release before the end of the year. Proposals will be due Feb. 1. The committee will review and rank the proposals from February to April and then make recommendations to the council.

The city bought the old Don Miller car dealership in 2010 for $5.8 million, hoping to encourage revitalization in the old factory district. Last year, it reviewed six bids for proposals on the site and recommended the city accept three.

Only Gebhardt's $31.5 million proposal (PDF) for apartments, lofts, retail and office space on the north 700 block moved forward and is now under construction. A $32 million proposal (PDF) by Urban Land Interests (ULI) for a commercial development collapsed because the company needed too much city financing. And the Rifkin Group decided not to move ahead with its plans (PDF) for a $24 million mixed-used development on the south side of the 800 block.

The ULI proposal was complicated by a late proposal by Metcalfe to build a grocery store with a rooftop commercial farm on the same spot. The unique nature of the project excited a lot of neighbors, but the city was already negotiating with ULI, and the Common Council declined to halt the process.

Metcalfe won't say if his new proposal would still include a farm.

"The Capitol East District has a really rich and diverse history, and we're interested in being part of its revival," he says. "I'm not prepared to comment on what our proposal is. We've yet to see the request for proposals."

Ald. Marsha Rummel says that people in the neighborhood "are really interested in a grocery store," though commercial development is tricky to put together. She adds that rental housing would be easier, given the big demand.

For this go-around, says Rummel, the request for proposals will only include the north side of the 800 block, a full-city block that is about 4.5 acres.

"The south side is for sale. Anyone can make an offer, and it will not go through an RFP process," she says. "It's smaller and has more limitations."

The south-side parcel is a "traditional employment" zone under the city's new zoning code, geared "to provide significant numbers of living-wage jobs that contribute to a sustainable economy and a strong tax base."

Ald. Mark Clear says the process to review proposals will likely be tweaked. "It ended up being a little ad hoc last time," he says. "Some people felt like the neighborhoods were either too involved or not enough involved. Some neighborhoods felt they or others were cut out."

Clear hopes the process will run more like the one now under way for Union Corners. "The proof will be in the responses we get," he adds.

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