Madison's nascent arts incubator got a boost Feb. 26, when Gov. Jim Doyle announced $73,600 in "brownfield" grants to help revitalize the former Garver factory on Madison's east side, by Olbrich Park.
The money can be used for demolition, removal of abandoned tanks and containers and environmental assessments.
Common Wealth Development, a nonprofit community development corporation, wants to remake the historic Garver Feed Mill, 3244 Atwood Ave., into a haven for local artists. It is envisioned as a public space where visitors will mingle with artists in affordable studios.
After roughly a year and a half of planning, the project faces its final hurdle: an April 7 referendum to "convey" the building to Common Wealth to develop it as an arts incubator.
"I'm never one to count votes before they're cast, but I'm optimistic," says Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz. He notes that the referendum, though required, is just a formality.
"The reason we have to go to referendum is not because of funding the project - Common Wealth Development will pay the $15.4 million cost - but because development of the site triggers our shoreline preservation ordinance," he says. The ordinance, passed in 1992, requires public approval of certain parks projects.
Common Wealth executive director Marianne Morton is also hopeful: "The Garver Arts Incubator will bring new life to this historic building and create an exciting public facility that will spur economic development, support the success of working artists and offer educational and cultural opportunities for the public."
The incubator would include 40 art studios, a three-story atrium, indoor/outdoor cafe, gift shop and rooftop garden. Visitors can take classes, attend performances or view a gallery. The remodeled building would be certified as environmentally friendly.
Karin Wolf of the Madison Arts Commission says surveys of area artists have shown "an overwhelming need for affordable studio, rehearsal and performance space."
The proposal is similar to the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Va., which attracts 500,000 visitors annually. Cieslewicz calls it "a great project to both preserve a historic building and use the space to enrich our community."