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Buyer lacks money for Badger School deal

A rendering shows an early concept of the converted Badger School building after a redevelopment by the Center for Resilient Cities.  Rendering submitted by the Center for Resilient Cities

A rendering shows an early concept of the converted Badger School building after a redevelopment by the Center for Resilient Cities. Rendering submitted by the Center for Resilient Cities

Paul Snyder
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A $500,000 offer is the best Dane County has attracted for the boarded-up Badger School.
But the prospective buyer, the Madison-based Center for Resilient Cities, does not have $500,000.

“It’s going to be difficult,” said Joe Sensenbrenner, board president for the center, which has proposed converting the school and property in Madison into a farm and community center.

The county gave the center until Nov. 16 to get the money for the sale and an additional $175,000 for architectural fees. Thomas Dunbar, the group’s executive director, would not say how much money the organization has, only that it is making “good progress.”

“We’re committed to getting it,” he said. “We have another substantial project in Milwaukee that, in the last calendar year, we’ve been able to raise nearly $1 million for.”

The center is a nonprofit agency that works with urban communities to promote green building and economic development. Its plan for the Badger School site includes a farming operation on 3.85 acres and a community center and grocery store in a remodeled Badger School building.

There are no cost estimates for the project because a final architectural plan will be based on neighborhood meetings later this year and next year.

The neighbors are skeptical, said Madison Alderman Tim Bruer, who represents the area.

“I think the neighborhood was hoping for a larger, mixed-use retail option for the site and expecting the county would make that a priority,” he said. “Now it appears to have abandoned that concern because of the cash benefit to the county.”

Bruer said he is concerned the county took the offer simply to boost a weak budget.

The county has been trying to sell the property for three years and had it listed as surplus long before the budget became a problem, said Topf Wells, County Executive Kathleen Falk’s chief of staff.

The county received two other offers for the school, Wells said, but chose the center because it had the fewest contingencies and quickest sale opportunity.

But there will be no sale if there is no money. If that’s the case, Bruer said, the county should consider other offers, particularly those that match the neighborhood’s preference.

“I just want to make sure we can be able to realize the best use here,” he said. “It might be our last hope for mixed-use development.”

Neither Sensenbrenner nor Dunbar would discuss what will happen if the organization cannot raise the money by Nov. 16. But Dunbar said he is committed to the plan and wants work to begin in 2011.

“We have no interest in stretching this out over five years,” he said. “It’s the kind of plan where it’s important to keep momentum.”

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