Construction is underway at the corner of South Park and Cedar Streets in Madison, the former site of the Truman Olson US Army Reserve facility, on a 24,000-square-foot grocery store and 150 affordable housing apartments set to open next year.
At a groundbreaking ceremony Monday, developer Brandon Rule thanked City of Madison staff and elected officials, the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, construction partners and Movin’ Out, the nonprofit co-developer and co-owner of the project.
The $43-million development, awarded to Rule Enterprises in December of 2019, is likely the largest new construction project in Madison led a Black-owned developer.
Rule said Madison’s diverse south side is the right place for this kind of development.
“There’s a mix of incomes, mix of race, mixed with socioeconomic status and gender, just everything. It’s a melting pot,” he said. “And we think this project reflects that very thing as well.”
“It’s really important that as our city grows, it grows in a way that reflects our entire community and that our entire community is able to benefit from the wealth generated by development in Madison,” Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said.
Rule said the pandemic, which took hold three months after he was awarded the project, only set it back a few months, and the grocery store is still on track to open in 2022, about a year from now. The city required any proposed development to include a grocery store as the nearby Pick ‘n’ Save was slated to close in 2018 when SSM Health proposed demolishing it to build a new clinic. When community members mobilized to avoid making the area a food desert, SSM found a different location on Fish Hatchery Road and Kroger pledged to keep the store open until a new one could be built.
Alder Sherri Carter, who represents an adjacent south side district, noted that the neighborhood has had a grocery store for 50 years and she wasn’t about to allow the area to go without one now.
“We are determined,” she said of South Siders. “We are resilient and we embody those spirits that make South Madison one of the greatest neighborhoods in Madison. It is the diamond in the crown of Madison. More importantly, I’m very touched by the residents of South Madison who believed in me when I said we will have a grocery store. We will have a grocery store.”
Alder Tag Evers, who represents the district where the new development is located, noted that residents came together to keep the area from becoming a food desert.
“Residents of South Madison deserved better. And in fact, demanded better,” he said. “They organized a save our supermarket campaign, bringing home the point that demolishing a grocery store to build a health clinic was an unwise and unjust choice, given the fact that the access to healthy food is among the recognized social determinants of public health.
Evers credited former SSM Regional President Damond Boatwright for “making the difficult but key decision” to change direction and building a new clinic elsewhere, allowing the Pick n Save to stay open.
Luna’s Grocery, located in the Allied Drive neighborhood, was initially named as the grocery partner of Rule’s development, but announced that it was stepping away last month. The City of Madison purchased the grocery condo from Rule and will work to find a new grocery partner, Rhodes-Conway said, and could either sell or lease the condo.
“The city is committed to ensuring that a full service grocer will be found that can serve the South Madison community for many, many years to come,” she said.
Rule said the residential portion of the development would likely be complete in early 2023.
Rule said he hopes bringing a Black-owned developer to Madison will inspire others to succeed.
“I think ownership is super important and breaking down a barrier so more people from socio-economical disadvantages can have opportunities” he said. “This is the first for a Black (developer), but next hopefully Hispanic or Latino and Asian, Hmong, women, et cetera. We all should participate in this. Hopefully that could be the first of many African-Americans and Black people doing this as well.”
This story has been updated to more accurately reflect the role of Movin’ Out in the project.