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My neighborhood has a first name … it’s O-S-C-A-R

City of Madison planner sees redevelopment opportunities with former Oscar Mayer campus.

From the pages of In Business magazine.

City Planner Dan McAuliffe played to a curious crowd last month as he presented the Oscar Mayer Special Area Plan to the Northside Business Association. The group includes business owners from the north side, many located in close proximity to the Oscar Mayer facility that has been vacant since 2017.

McAuliffe outlined a lengthy process that was tackled in two main phases. The first phase of strategic assessment encompassed “big picture” objectives such as economic development, housing, sustainability, and equity, and phase two took in the input of key stakeholder groups and individuals through events, online surveys, and interactive polling. “We wanted to make sure we heard from a broad cross section of Madison rather than just one particular group,” states McAuliffe.

City planners considered eight key objectives:

1. Weave together the north and east sides of Madison. McAullife explained that Packers Avenue was part of the original 1955 city highway plan and is now is an unwanted barrier.

2. Maintain a major employment corridor. Oscar Mayer employed 4,000 people and planners feel that is a reasonable goal.

3. Create an inclusive, mixed-use hub. “Think cool restaurants and places to hang out,” explains McAullife, describing varying levels of housing and a mix of commercial spaces.

4. Transform Commercial Avenue into a walkable district. Primarily industrial, this street is not conducive to pedestrian traffic.

5. Add connections from Sherman to Packers avenues for bikes, pedestrians, and cars.

6. Plan for transit-oriented development. The North Transfer Point has the potential to be a community hub supporting current users, encouraging increased ridership, and bringing an economic boost to local businesses.

7. Incorporate area wetlands into a neighborhood park.

8. Enhance the city entry corridor. “Packers Avenue is the front door to the city for people arriving from the airport,” McAuliffe explains.

The housing component of the plan encourages a mix of housing types at different price points for rental and ownership. “The goal is to have every type of housing you could need in your entire life,” McAuliffe remarked. “If you like your neighborhood, you shouldn’t have to leave.”

Plans also call for repurposed and new buildings to accommodate a full spectrum of jobs, including but not limited to service, technical, food, manufacturing, and incubation space for emerging businesses. Another goal is to attract local restaurants, music, and performance venues that support a diverse population.

Punchlist items aside, city planners and the north side business community agreed they would like the project to have its own culture and character. “There is a certain intrinsic character that comes along with old industrial buildings, and we need to find what is real and what can be maintained,” reflects McAulliffe.

The proposed plan along with the city approval schedule is available online at cityofmadison.com/dpced/planning/oscar-mayer/2614/.

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