Allied Drive: A Success We Shouldn't Repeat
August 9, 2009 11:46 PM
Friday was a great day in Madison. After over three years of intense effort we opened 32 brand new and beautiful units of affordable housing on Allied Drive. In May of 2006 I had to convince three quarters of the City Council to spend $4.3 million to buy three large apartment complexes. The complexes were beat up and poorly designed. I felt that when we had a chance to acquire 20% of the housing on Allied in one purchase we had to take it. The Council voted to make the purchase but with just enough votes.
After the acquisition we spent many months working with the neighborhood to design the project, which will happen in two phases. The first phase, part of which opened Friday, includes affordable rental housing. The second phase, still in the planning stages, will include single family owner-occupied housing, an important part of the revitalization of the area.
The new buildings are not just pleasant to live in, but they were intentionally designed to orient to the street so that there are eyes on the street virtually all the time. Our hope is to use good design to achieve greater safety. City Community Development Authority Director Mark Olinger deserves a lot of credit both for pushing me to push for the purchase and for insisting on good design in the project.
We are trying something here that hasn't been tried with much success anywhere in America: revitalize a neighborhood without driving out the existing residents. It's too early to claim success on that score, but with continued effort we might be able to meet our dual goals of a neighborhood with a dramatically improved quality of life that is also very affordable.
But in some ways this is a success we shouldn't want to repeat. As a city we just allowed Allied Drive to fall too far, and it was very expensive to pick it back up. Our goal going forward should be to avoid another situation like this one. To that end we're providing the community with an important new tool. It's called Neighborhood Indicators, and the idea is to put together a group of indicators of neighborhood health for each of the 70 neighborhoods in our city. You can see the pilot version here: http://www.planning.wisc.edu/madison/Index.html. The full scale version will be ready to launch later this fall. If we see signs of stress we can then go there, diagnose the problem and use programs like the Emerging Neighborhoods Fund to invest a small amount of resources in the short run to prevent needing millions of dollars to turn around a neighborhood that has slipped too far. It's a great idea that was developed by our Fiscal Efficiency Auditor Andrew Statz, but it was the brainchild of our Council President Tim Bruer.
So let's celebrate the early success at Allied Drive, stay vigilant to keep that success intact and work to avoid the next deeply troubled neighborhood in the future.