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Urban Land Interest donates prime office & retail space to Boys and Girls Club of Dane County


A prime location on the Capitol Square will now be a space for the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County — and the CEO of the organization wants your input into what happens there.

BGCDC CEO Michael Johnson said he’s known for about two months that real estate developer Urban Land Interest planned to donate the space in the famed American Exchange Bank building at the corner of East Washington Avenue and Pinckney Street, rent-free, for at least one year. He got a surprise yesterday, though, when he met ULI representatives at the property to pick up the keys — they told him they would also donate the storefront next door, which until recently housed a Quizno’s.

All told, Johnson said it’s about 9,000 square feet of prime office and retail space just across the street from the State Capitol.

“This place is gorgeous,” he said.

Johnson said he intends to offer some of the space as an office to the Black Men’s Coalition of Dane County, and to use some of the space for storage of goods the BGCDC has collected to distribute. Over the past year, the club has accumulated and distributed hundreds of thousands of facemasks, and earlier this month acquired more than $1 million worth of athletic shoes and gloves.

“This building is perfect because there’s a loading dock in the back of the building that connects right to the warehouse space that we got,” Johnson said.

As far as the rest of the space — including the former Quizno’s — Johnson is open to ideas. An office refurbishment contractor can help those who also want to have their office spaces renovated or upgraded.

“I’m thinking about trying to figure out how do I use this to earn money for the community? Do we turn it into a restaurant? Do we turn it into a part of the Farmer’s Market? Do we host events out of it?” he said.

He also floated ideas as big as shutting down the square for an All White Party style fundraiser.

He said anyone with ideas could email him at [email protected].

The donation is for one year, but Johnson hopes ULI is open to extending it.

“Hopefully in a year, we demonstrate that we’ll utilize this space and it brings traffic downtown, and it’s helping people in the community,” he said.

The building was built in 1871 on the former site of the American House Hotel, owned and operated by one of Madison’s first Black businessmen, Beverly Jefferson, until it burned down in 1868. It was first home to Park Savings Bank and later American Exchange Bank. Most recently it housed the American Family Dreambank, a hub for entrepreneurship and innovation which recently moved into American Family’s new Spark building a few blocks down East Washington Avenue.

Urban Land Interest representatives did not respond to requests for comment.