Office space, living space, light manufacturing, a hotel, a hostel, a coffee bistro, a restaurant and a brewery. As the State Journal's Dean Mosiman has reported, all these ideas can be found among the six separate proposals for how to develop land on the 700 and 800 blocks of East Washington Avenue.
I convinced the Common Council (it didn't take much convincing) to buy the land from car dealer Don Miller late last year, as part of the city's land banking program. Credit for that program really goes to Ald. Mark Clear, who offered the program in a budget amendment two years ago.
Mark's amendment made $5 million available for land banking in 2010 and then I funded the program at the same amount in my 2011 budget. The Miller site cost $5.8 million and much of the rest went to purchase a site further down the street at Union Corners.
Land banking is a great way to spark redevelopment, particularly in this case. The problem we're finding in what we're calling the Capitol East District is that the parcels are too big, expensive and risky for local developers to take on. But if the city purchased these large parcels to divide into bite-size pieces, the risk would be lower and local developers would come forward; that's exactly what's happening now.
I really hope Ale Asylum makes it into the mix. It's the perfect kind of business to have at that site and it would complement many of the other kinds of uses we'd like to see in the corridor. And Hopalicious is delicious.
With the addition of Shop Bop to the old Marquip factory a block or two to the east, the Capitol East District is poised to take off. And a lot of that has to do with the city's foresight in creating the land banking program.