Madison city officials, seeking to revitalize a half-vacant strip plaza on the southwest side, are moving forward with plans to expand a public library and neighborhood center.
The new spaces, which southwest side Ald. Matt Phair said will be open by January 2014, will utilize space left vacant by the former Ace Hardware in the Meadowood Shopping Center.
The Meadowridge Library will move into the former hardware store space, with the neighborhood center shifting into the current library space. The two tenants will share the existing neighborhood center footprint in the middle.
"We need gathering space," Phair said. "We want it, and we've proven as a neighborhood that we will use the space."
Phair said the city's commitment, which the Common Council made by allocating money to the project in November, may help attract a business tenant to the strip plaza, too.
"We need businesses now," he said. "We don't need any more public places. We'll have enough of those -- and that'll be great -- but we need that blend of businesses and public places."
While the library and neighborhood center aren't big businesses themselves, the increased traffic in the area had some business owners hopeful for the future.
"We've got some excitement going, and hopefully that'll translate into people being interested in coming here," said John Whitley, the owner of Best Cleaners in Madison. "I just think that activity, that talk, that vibe, is going to help us, it's going to help the neighborhood."
The city council still needs to finalize contracts and lease extensions, Phair said.