Armed with initial recommendations and a vision for the future of the Alliant Energy Center campus, Dane County’s committee overseeing the process of planning a renovation of the site is poised to consider approval at its next meeting in September.
The Dane County Board of Supervisors approved a master planning process for the 164-acre county-owned south side expo and convention center campus in 2016. Since then, Chicago-based Hunden Strategic Partners completed a study of the campus and suggested renovating the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, investing in private development elsewhere on the campus and adding exhibition and commercial space.
On Monday, Madison planning firm Vandewalle & Associates Inc. presented its report, including a vision for the site and strategic next steps, to the Alliant Energy Center (AEC) Master Planning Oversight Committee.
With input from committee members and the community, the proposed vision for the “key regional asset” is to serve as a “dynamic convening campus” that provides an authentic Dane County experience for community and visitors. The AEC should also serve as a “catalyst for a vibrant destination district driving tax base growth and increased access to economic opportunity for area residents,” according to the report.
“This is a place people come from all over the world to, and it should reveal the character and the value and the place that is the Madison region,” Vandewalle principal planner Rob Gottschalk said.
The eventual master plan is meant to build on core elements identified such as agriculture, tech, fitness, competitions and consumer shows, according to the report. It should also represent the "Madison region and Wisconsin experience” through a connection to the state’s agricultural diversity, lakes presence and biking opportunities.
Dane County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan said creating a destination that is walkable, compact and with connections to the surrounding area will create economic opportunity that does not currently exist in the South Park Street corridor and the entire county.
“The threat is that if we don’t do this, if we don’t invest in the campus in a thoughtful, logical way then we’re not … perhaps keeping up with the competition,” Corrigan said. “Secondly, we’re definitely not taking advantage of the kind of opportunities that are out there that we could bring more economic resources to the community.”
Corrigan and other committee members referenced last week's CrossFit Games as an example of what a future dynamic campus could offer.
“It is a great example of what investment to the campus might do,” Corrigan said.
Earlier this year, county officials heard results of the Chicago-based Hunden Strategic Partners’ study on the campus. The consultants recommended renovating the Veterans Memorial Coliseum and investing in private development elsewhere on the campus.
The oversight committee is scheduled to take action on Vandewalle’s report at its meeting Sept. 11, before it moves onto the county’s Personnel & Finance and Public Works & Transportation Committee meeting. The $250,000 master planning process would likely not begin until 2018, Corrigan said.
Vandewalle outlined six strategic next steps that include writing the master plan, engaging municipal entities such as the city and town of Madison, creating a funding and governance strategy, developing a business plan and market strategy, and continuing public engagement.
Corrigan said the greatest challenge would be creating a governance structure and finding the funding.
“We know we don't’ have $250 million,” Corrigan said, citing an amount that total renovation could cost.
However, Corrigan said the redevelopment of the campus would come in stages and funding could be split among the state, county and private partners — very similar to how the campus' $20 million New Holland Pavilions were funded.
Additionally, the county would have to wait to take full advantage of the campus until the Dane County Jail’s work-release Huber Center is relocated downtown. The Public Protection & Judiciary committee recommended the consolidation of all three jail facilities be included in the 2018 budget.
Though planning for the future redevelopment of the center is a lengthy process, Corrigan said it is worth the effort to think about the totality of the site and how it could affect the areas of the city that have grown up alongside the AEC.
“This isn’t just a small potatoes bit of Madison,” Corrigan said. “There’s a reason we’re taking the time to think methodically for this.”
Supervisor Shelia Stubvs, who represents the two neighborhoods next to the AEC, emphasized that a broad vision for the campus can benefit the nearby neighborhoods.
“When you make improvements like those being discussed, it means more jobs, more services, more opportunity and a better overall quality of life, especially for those who live in that immediate area,” Stubbs said in a statement.