Urban renewal succeeds in 1967
They used to call the area south of Wingra Creek between Park St and the railroad tracks “Hell’s Half Acre.” In 1967, they called it the South Madison Urban Renewal Area, and it was an urban renewal project that the residents welcomed. Because unlike the Brittingham and Triangle redevelopments, the $2.6 million project did not clear the entire 72-acre, 15-block area, but rehabilitated 155 of the 221 substandard structures. It also reconstructed streets to Madison standards and improved Penn Park. By late fall, the Madison Redevelopment Authority had acquired close to 20 properties, putting the project so far ahead of schedule that street reconstruction and park development was moved up to Spring 1968.
Under Director Sol Levin, the MRA also made progress in the 52-acre, 19-block Triangle Redevelopment Area, selling the fifth of 11 properties for the Davis Duehr Eye Clinic on Regent Street. Since starting land acquisition in 1961, the MRA had facilitated development of the Madison Housing Authority’s Gay Braxton apartments for the elderly, the Madison Medical Center at 20 South Park St., the new Neighborhood House Community Center on South Mills Street and an expansion area for Madison General Hospital. The Hospital has also committed to another site, as has the Bayview Foundation, set to start construction on moderate-income housing the next spring. Four sites remained–one set for a shopping center at Park and Regent, and three parcels over a large area, planned for high-rise apartments.
The MRA, which in 1964 barely survived a referendum to abolish it–367 votes out of 36,7000 cast–was also asked to create an urban renewal area and assist property owners in the 600 to 900 blocks of University Avenue. The 21-acre $5.4 million project will include both private development (such as the University Square shopping mall) and University (Vilas Hall). The MRA also wants to study a 198-acrea General Neighborhood Renewal Plan for the area bounded by Frances and Regent Streets and Randall and University Avenues.
When the MRA bought and razed properties in the Triangle project in 1962-64, it did a terrible job communicating with and relocating the residents; the MRA’s own relocation specialist, Florence Zmudzinski, called the authority’s effort a failure. This year, the MRA is better prepared; Levin has budgeted for relocation services for 367 families, individuals and businesses due to the South Madison and University Avenue projects, the James Madison Park expansion, city acquisition of Turville Point, and highway construction. MRA relocation officer Charles Hill told the MRA there would be about 75 families needing public housing due to the South Madison project alone.