City planner, alder split on new proposal to redevelop West Towne Mall area into housing, offices, & parks

MADISON, Wis.– The City of Madison is considering plans to drastically change West Towne Mall as we know it.

The proposals call for more office buildings, apartments, bike paths, sidewalks, parks… and less, mall?

What’s being proposed by Madison city planners isn’t just a redevelopment of West Towne: it’s a complete overhaul. However, it’s important to note that, right now, these are proposals. Ideas. Nothing has been signed off on just yet.

The proposals are part of the city’s larger Odana-area plan to reimagine more than 1,000 acres of land from Mineral Point Road and the Beltline to the eastern edge of Research Park.

“It’s really just providing the framework for a diversity of uses as the retail landscape changes in the future,” explained Ben Zellers, Madison city planner. “We’ve seen different malls transition to different uses both locally and nationally.”

It’s no secret malls have been struggling for years, and COVID-19 has only expedited their demise. Coresight Research estimates that 25% of America’s roughly 1,000 malls will close in the next 3-5 years. Zellers isn’t ready to put West Towne in that category.

“We hope that they’re successful as they continue on and add stores like Von Maur,” he said.

Speaking of Von Maur, the addition of the new department store is amidst this uncertainty is one of District 9 Alder Paul Skidmore’s biggest concerns. The store is scheduled to open in fall of 2022.

Skidmore recalled a recent conversation he had with West Towne Mall’s manager about these plans. Skidmore said he commented, “‘Gee, that looks like Odana road would go right through our new building.'”

Some of the city’s proposals show an extended Odana Road plowing through part of the current mall.

“Many of my colleagues seem to forget the 9th district has the largest assessed value in the city,” said Skidmore. The District 9 alder said his biggest concern is economic: the impact a downsized mall would have on local businesses, their employees, and the amount of revenue they generate for the local community.

Right now, the potential changes are broken down into four phases:

  • PHASE ONE: Add more developed streets to the property along with new buildings for offices and housing
  • PHASE TWO: Extend Odana Road through the mall so it could connect with D’Onofrio Drive and ultimately High Point Road
  • PHASE THREE: Increases the housing and office density
  • PHASE FOUR: Remove large portions of the existing mall to create a park and more housing and offices near the Beltline and Gammon Road

Next up: City leaders will present Madison’s Plan Commission with updates at their meeting on March 8, with final approval for the plans going to the City Council later this year.