The Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center, a fixture of Madison’s Near East Side, is seeking $300,000 in public funds to help it purchase a nearby property it has been using for years.
The center, 953 Jenifer St., is looking to acquire a playground, basketball court and a small parking lot from Immanuel Lutheran Church. Currently, Wil-Mar leases the 0.8-acre plot, but the church has decided to sell the parcel and offered the neighborhood center the first opportunity to purchase it.
City Council members will vote Tuesday on the loan. The money would come from the federal Community Development Block Grant program, but city officials determine what projects receive funding, said community development director Jim O’Keefe.
Wil-Mar was initially seeking $500,000 to help close on the $621,000 asking price. But city policy sets a cap of $150,000 per property on these types of loans.
O’Keefe said staff decided that a waiver on the limit could be granted, which is fairly common for neighborhood centers.
“The loss of this property to Wil-Mar and to the community would be great,” city staff wrote in a review of the proposal. “This is valuable property, and if not purchased by Wil-Mar, it would easily sell for private development.”
The neighborhood center, which puts on the popular Fete de Marquette and co-sponsors other festivals, uses the property, at the corner of Jenifer and South Brearly streets, for its programming and lets the public take advantage of the playground and basketball court.
Any payments on the loan would be deferred until Wil-Mar sells the property or changes how it is used.
On top of the land acquisition, the neighborhood center is looking to make needed repairs and renovations to the former Pilgrim Church building that has been its home since 1968.
Wil-Mar is undergoing a $1.75 million capital campaign to cover the remainder of the land purchase and renovations slated to occur in 2019.
Plans for the structure built in 1919 call for renovating community space and two kitchens, updating electrical, heating and air conditioning systems, replacing the roof, and making restrooms handicap accessible.