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Westgate Mall Redevelopment Moves Ahead

Developers from various architecture and engineering firms petitioned the City of Madison's Planning Division in late May for permission to re-zone the Westgate Mall from Commercial Corridor to Planned Development.

The mall, which opened in 1969, was previously home to stores such as J.C. Penney, S.S. Kresge grocery store, and more recently T.J. Maxx and the Wisconsin Craft Market. However, with a dwindling number of tenants and a vast parking lot mostly devoid of landscaping, the property has become an "eyesore" over the years according to the developers' letter of intent.

Re-zoning the property is the next step in the larger plan to demolish the mall and re-develop the area in a series of phases, the first three of which introduce 234 market-rate units, 156 senior affordable units, and 70 workforce housing units in four- to five-story buildings.

A future phase includes the construction of a three- to eight-story office or medical clinic on the corner of Tokay Boulevard and Whitney Way, an art installation in partnership with the recently announced COVID-19 Municipal Art Fund Initiative, and a gathering area for local residents.

"The landscape concept focuses on usable green space with native plantings," the letter of intent says. "Tree-lined entrance drives and walkways are punctuated with flowering woody shrubs, ornamental grasses, and perennial flowers."

As bucolic as that sounds, area neighborhoods including Orchard Ridge are concerned about the increased load various planned housing developments will put on local roads, schools, and parks. In addition to the 460 housing units proposed for the Westgate Mall redevelopment, another 96 units are expected with the redevelopment of the former Babes Bar & Grill site, 79 units at the former BMO Harris bank site, and yet another 200 units (plus a hotel) at the corner of Mineral Point Road and Whitney Way.

This increase in residential population density, coupled with the expansion of the nearby Exact Sciences facility, most likely adds up to more cars on the road and, potentially, more traffic headaches for local residents. To address this, developers have proposed a number of solutions including installing a traffic signal at Whitney Way and the development's main entrance, and relocating the development's access point on Tokay Boulevard to the east.

While the true community impact of the surge in property development in the area remains to be seen, developers say they are committed to making the construction process at Westgate Mall as painless as possible for local residents.

"The site is large enough to contain all construction work and materials onsite," says Danny Afable, the Development Manager at JT Klein Company overseeing the redevelopment project. "All construction work will be completed within the allowable construction noise hours outlined in the City of Madison Ordinances."

Afable does concede, however, that certain construction work closer to roadways might necessitate changes to local traffic patterns, which could snarl morning and evening commutes.

The next hurdles the developers must clear are meetings with the city's Plan Commission and the City Council, both of which are scheduled to take place in late July and early August. All meetings are being held virtually due to COVID-19.◼

Megan Handley is a contributing writer and coordinates the publication of The Grapevine.

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