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2019 a big year for Oscar Mayer site

From the pages of In Business magazine.

When Tom Otto thinks of the 72-acre site that was the home to Oscar Mayer for nearly a century, he knows full well the opportunity to reposition the site and the surrounding area for the next 100 years is one of the more important economic development projects that Madison will undertake.

Otto, an economic development specialist for the city of Madison, notes the city is trying to give its preferred development approaches a nudge. Several different development “opportunities” have been identified as part of the city’s Strategic Assessment Report, with more specific details to follow as part of its Phase 2 Special Area Plan. The latter will guide future decisions about subdivisions, zoning, and infrastructure.

Digital dynamos, next-generation manufacturing, food manufacturing and distribution, and even another large corporate campus are among the possibilities. If a mixed-use approach is chosen, we could see some combination of the opportunities listed, but whatever approach is taken, the city wants to have a high density of living-wage jobs and equip north- and east-side residents with skills to serve the emerging economy.

“There are a number of opportunities, and they are not mutually exclusive,” Otto notes. “A number of them could be incorporated into whatever the redevelopment scenario would be.”

Otto believes these opportunities align well with what residents want to see. They have expressed a preference for spaces that are welcoming, that positively impact jobs, that are walkable, and that leverage the public market, Dane County Regional Airport, and other nearby amenities. They also covet housing affordability, diverse business ownership and workforce, restaurants and shopping, and multimodal transportation.

The development path will be up to Reich Brothers Holdings and Rabin Worldwide, which purchased the plant after Kraft Foods shut it down. Reich Brothers is managing the building, including 280,000 square feet of office space. For the moment, it’s content to lease office space, but it has yet to decide whether to sell off portions. We’re still in the early stages of development, but 2019 figures to be a key year. “There is a lot that’s going to happen in 2019,” Otto says, “but it’s a little hard to predict because we’re in wait-and-see mode in terms of the direction of the property owner.”

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