**On Monday, Feb. 20 at 7pm, The Bloom will be voted on at City Council.**
Please attend if you can. If you cannot, please contact City Council.
In the past 10 years, Monona has added 459 market rate apartments. There's no doubt we need more housing but we need more housing that can meet the needs of all people, not just those who can afford a $2,400/month two bedroom apartment. On Monday at 7pm on February 20, 2023, the City Council is set to vote on the approval of a market rate apartment complex on a prime corner of our main street, the corner of Monona Drive and Dean Avenue.
The almost 5 acre site used to be the home to Snick's Bar, the Monona Antique Mini Mall, and BMO Harris Bank's drive-up terminal. The developer is Nate Helbach and The Neutral Project. The site is located between the four lane county highway, Monona Drive, and a residential street called Gordon Avenue which is lined with single family homes. One of these homes is mine.
I'd like to tell you a little about our neighborhood. It's one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city of Monona. The homes are some of the lowest priced homes in the city. We are a close knit neighborhood that enjoys regular gatherings in our front yards, neighborhood Halloween parties, and you'll often see chalk drawing festivities happening in the street on weekends. There used to be 21 children that lived on our block but those numbers are dropping because of the proposed development called The Bloom.
Due to the lack of parking at the high school, our street is 100% parked Monday through Friday from September to early June. Overflow commercial visitors also park on our street if they can find space. It's not the typical peaceful neighborhood that many in Monona experience. At any moment, you may see a group of high school boys driving 50 mph down the street even when toddlers and people walking dogs and kids are standing on the street. It's a street like many in Monona without sidewalks. Because cars line the street on one side, people have to walk in the street. But we love our neighbors and we love the walkability of our neighborhood with cafes, a shoe cobbler, a veterinarian, Viet Hoa Market, a laundromat, a skate shop, and more right outside our doors.
In 2021, there was a hit and run on our street. A young man who was a neighbor at the time was walking to Rossi's Pizza where he worked at 3:30pm when a high schooler ran him over and fled. The driver was later apprehended at McDonald's further south on Gordon Avenue. The sweet group of toddlers that live next door to me were standing in their yard and witnessed the entire incident. To hear a four year old talk about how he flew into the air and crashed onto the pavement crushing his femur and arm is unsettling to say the least. It's also something those kids will never forget.
We also have six school buses that roll down our street at roughly 7:30am, 11am, and 3:30pm. Those school buses have sideswiped numerous cars parked on the street more than once. The buses do not stop for anything other than their scheduled stops. My kids have been on the bus when these accidents happened. They have also been walking home from their bus stop when the high schoolers approached their cars to see them with large yellow dents and mirrors hanging off or lying on the ground in pieces.
If you look at the police department's traffic incident map, you will see that the areas around the high school are hot spots. This is what happens when inexperienced drivers who are rushing to get to school on time have to search for parking at rush hour and have to parallel park on busy streets. The intersections near the school are very busy for our police department due to this lack of parking, volume of cars at rush hour, and a four lane county highway with cars passing through Monona to get to the Beltline. If The Bloom is approved, we'll be adding 120+ cars to this already dangerous situation.
The Bloom is a four story market rate development featuring 83 apartments and 8 rental townhomes. There are two commercial units on the ground floor and one will be occupied by BMO Harris Bank. The rent schedule is steep like every new market rate apartment complex in our area. We do not know if how much the underground parking will cost as that fee has not been disclosed. There is not adequate surface parking to accommodate all of the tenants so underground parking will be required for tenants since there is no street parking nearby.
Monona currently has no workforce or affordable housing that is not age restricted, or naturally occurring. Naturally occurring affordable housing (NOAH) mean apartments that were built decades ago and are rented at lower cost because they are not high quality housing. We do have a significant amount of these apartments that were constructed in the 1960's and 1970's. They typically do not have garages, bike storage, or any amenities. We have a few 55+ age restricted apartments that also allow individuals with disabilities like Monona Hills or Monona Meadows. But we have yet to build any workforce housing in Monona. One workforce housing project that was in the planning process for the bowling alley site has stalled and another is still in the planning stages and planned for the Chief's Auto Parts site on East Broadway.
If the City Council approves The Bloom on February 20, the City will give the developer of The Bloom one city owned lot for $1 as a subsidy. We purchased this lot between Snick's and the Antique Mini Mall over 10 years ago for $200,000 and have been maintaining and mowing it for 10 years. The developer will also receive $2,970,000 in TIF (tax increment financing). Please keep in mind that this is one of our prime development sites in the City. It is not a location where development has stalled, or an area that needs remediation. At this link describing why TIF is used, you'll see on page 4 the reasons TIF is used. It's for affordable housing, tourism, retail, industrial areas, etc.
This developer did not reach out to our neighborhood or other stakeholders to ask us what we would like to see here or to learn what our needs and wants are as a community. He is not very familiar with Monona and this type of input would have been incredibly helpful to create an asset to the entire community, not just the developer. Instead we will see a classic example of gentrification with expensive apartments that no one in this neighborhood can afford and drives out the people who have lived in the single family homes for decades.
Let’s take a moment to envision what could have happened on this site if the neighbors and other stakeholders had been engaged from the beginning and asked what they would want and need in a development. We would have seen something very different than what is being proposed at The Bloom.
We could have seen a teen center because these are popular once again and are a great way to provide a supervised space for teens to hang out after school and on weekends. They will hang out here regardless because of the proximity to the high school. I would expect that “no loitering” signs will be posted which will be directed at the high schoolers.
We could have seen a mix of housing including some ownership options and workforce rentals. We could have had teachers that work at the high school or fire fighters or our police officers have an option for housing that they could actually afford.
We could have seen numerous micro retail units to provide a business incubator of sorts where these small businesses all feed off each other and support each other with similar clientele. 10 units of 500 sq. ft. would be great for startup retailers. We could have provided options for families with young children on the site like a daycare. Instead, families with young children that live on Gordon across from this development are planning to move out. One family with two children has already left. Another with four children is preparing to move if this is approved. The family oriented and highly diverse neighborhood that we once had will be forever changed.
If you share my concerns about the addition of 120+ cars to a neighborhood that is already unsafe and highly congested with no available street parking, or about our lack of housing that people in Monona can afford, I request your presence at the February 20 Monona City Council Meeting at 7pm. I truly believe we can do better and find a developer who is willing to work with us to create an asset for all of us. If you are unable to attend on February 20, you can send an email voicing your concerns at this link.
Yours in service,
Kristie Goforth, Candidate for Monona Mayor 2023
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