MADISON, Wis. -

A blighted piece of land along one of Madison's busiest streets could soon see new life.

Union Corners -- on East Washington Avenue at Milwaukee Street -- is considered by many to be the gateway to downtown Madison.

But for nearly eight years, the 11-acre Union Corners site has sat vacant.

Big ideas have been proposed in past years, but the sluggish economy curbed development plans.

What is finally moving things forward, however, is a development about a mile and a half up the road -- the former Don Miller car dealership site.

"We had an opportunity to learn from the 700 and 800 blocks," Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said. "That, combined with the fact that we had some inquiries earlier in the spring about Union Corners, that told us it's time to move."

Lou Host-Jablonski, chairman of the Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara Neighborhood Association, said it's exciting news.

"The neighborhood is looking forward to this new process with anticipation and also with some trepidation," Host-Jablonski said.

The RFP bidding process has begun for Union Corners, and the city has officially started accepting development proposals.

The city of Madison purchased the property a few years ago as part of a land bank fund, and it is now hoping to sell the property to a developer.

Soglin said goal at the site is mixed use -- a pedestrian-friendly development with office space, retail and housing.

"We want to make sure the whole site stays together and is developed as a unit," Host-Jablonski said.

If that doesn't happen, he said neighbors hope developers work together to create a single, seamless development.

While he couldn't list specific names, Soglin said it's promising that some developers have already shown interest in the site.

"We're not sure how serious they are, but we took our experiences on East Washington over the last six months and we put out an RFP this week, and let's see what happens," Soglin said.

Developers have just more than a month to submit their proposals. Everything is due to the city by July 27. The mayor said he has appointed a special committee to oversee the process and evaluate the proposals that come in.