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Madison is land banking, but will developers take it to the bank

By Tom Fetters

The city of Madison seems to be getting serious about building up its land banking portfolio, announcing its intention this week to buy a second parcel. But if replays of the Edgewater Hotel saga are on the horizon, the city could wind up sitting on a lot of desirable real estate no developer will touch.

Madison officials said this week the city has agreed to shell out $4.73 million for a 7.76-acre site owned by Don Miller Dealerships a few blocks east of the Capitol on East Washington Avenue.

The city’s Common Council later this month is expected to approve the purchase of Union Corners, an 11.5-acre parcel also on East Washington Avenue. According to our Madison bureau reporter, James Briggs, Madison would pay $3.3 million for that land.

City leaders say they’re getting into land banking with the goal of selling the parcels to developers whose projects are consistent with the city officials’ vision for Madison. And that, as we’ve seen with the proposed Edgewater Hotel redevelopment, can be the rub.

Plans for the Edgewater project have made more than two dozen stops before city governing bodies — and still face a hurdle in the form of a lawsuit brought against the city by residents of Madison’s Mansion Hill Historic District.

Madison officials are going to have to show developers that stepping into the city’s land bank differs from stepping onto a treadmill.

Tom Fetters is a copy editor at The Daily Reporter. He’s been land banking around his Oak Creek home.

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