The future of Madison at the StartingBlock

By Neil Heinen, Madison Magazine

StartingBlock MadisonStartingBlock is at once both a perfect description of a new building that holds the promise of spawning tens, dozens, scores of new businesses—startups in the parlance of the New Economy—and a misleading word in the context of the renaissance of Madison’s East Washington Avenue corridor, where the new entrepreneurial hub is more accurately a “MiddleBlock,” or “ContinuingMomentumBlock,” for a Capitol East District that actually “started” years ago. And right now I am very much in the mood to celebrate both.

With executive director Scott Resnick in place, a couple of “anchor” tenants already lined up, some generous corporate investments and a projected construction start date of late November/early December, the 50,000-square-foot Starting-Block building on the 800 block of East Washington Avenue is the first really significant employment component of the revitalization of a swath of the isthmus running from Blair Street to the Yahara River. That revitalization, which arguably began with the dream of a “Central Park” in the mid to late 1990s, has in the last couple of years been fueled by developer Otto Gebhardt’s Constellation and Galaxie apartment buildings and infrastructure and streetscape amenities by the city and was highlighted recently by the first East High School home football game at the newly renovated Breese Stevens Field.

But this dream that we are watching take shape, an urban transformation of historic scale that is changing our city, is rooted in strategic thinking, visionary ideas and old-school community activism that over the course of a decade or so resulted in a blueprint for an employment center that would be a catalyst for growth and development. StartingBlock is the first tangible realization of the employment part of that thinking and it will inevitably spur similar business location decisions, job creation and the quality of life components that accompany such growth. And I have to tell you I am experiencing one of the deepest senses of personal and professional pride that I have felt in my forty-plus years of living here. Read more …

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