Revitalizing the Cottage Grove Road Corridor


In an effort to grow economic vitality and create strong, safe neighborhoods on the southeast side of Madison, the City of Madison is seeking to uplift the Cottage Grove Road Corridor that has underwent major changes over the last few years.

Rebecca Cnare, an urban design planner for the City of Madison, said Cottage Grove Road Corridor is an area in the midst of change. With the Sentry Foods Store building standing vacant for close to two years, the relocation of Pinney Library and Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore and new developments happening at Grandview Commons, Cnare and the city are keeping a close watch on proposed changes to the Cottage Grove Road Corridor.

The city hired Place Dynamics, a market analysis consulting agency, to help set realistic expectations for the future of Cottage Grove Road Corridor.   

“If somebody were to come in with a proposal for a 12-story building, the plan would be able to say that's not really appropriate here. That's more appropriate on E. Washington Ave. or downtown,” Cnare said. 

Cnare added that a proposal for developing a Kwik Trip at the Sentry Grocery Store site was not approved by the city’s plan commissions because it didn’t meet some of the general goals of the Cottage Grove Road Corridor comprehensive plan.

There were some miscommunications in the beginning of the planning effort, after an inaccurate newsletter was sent to neighborhood residents with information on buildings that were incorrectly labeled as being approved for development. In phone calls to residents explaining the true nature of the plan, Cnare reminded everyone that the city is not pursuing a development proposal, nor is the city developing the land. The city is simply engaged in the first step of discussing the future of the corridor with residents, local businesses and other stakeholders.

“The images of buildings that we show examples of are the types of things that could be approved or could be developed if a property owner wanted to do something,” Cnare explained.

Cnare gives the examples of potentially having a pharmacy, a grocery store, a hardware store and of course, a library.

“This is not a development proposal; This is just to help us think about the future and when and if somebody wants to do something,” Cnare said.

As a part of the planning process, the city and District 16 Alder Denise DeMarb wanted to  ensure that residents have opportunities to voice their opinions on  what the community might look like in the future.

There were three large public meetings held to help gather information from residents about the future of Cottage Grove Road Corridor. Almost unanimously according to a summary of the meeting, residents responded with “the desire to support existing local businesses, encourage potential redevelopment, and support/increase pedestrian, bike and recreational and social opportunities for people of all ages.”

These wishes line up with the main purpose for relocating Pinney Library.

Pinney Library is being moved from its old location at 204 Cottage Grove Road to the Ruedebusch Development & Construction’s “Royster Corners” mixed-use development at the intersection of Cottage Grove and Dempsey Roads.

Sarah Lawton, neighborhood library supervisor at Pinney Library, believes that the new Pinney Library at Royster Corners will be a “game changer” for the neighborhood.

“Libraries bring great value to communities by providing a public space where people can come together over shared interests, learn new skills, and build community. Pinney Library also provides access to resources and technology crucial to developing neighborhoods. In addition to the many resources the library provides for adults, Pinney is focused on supporting early literacy. Starting kids off with the foundational skills they need to become great learners and readers helps communities thrive,” Lawton said.

Cnare said the relocation of Pinney Library has been a long time coming. The planning process for moving Pinney Library began in 2009; an unfortunate starting time Cnare said, for the economy was going through a rough time period.

“I think that's why that development didn't take off as fast as I think people thought it would. And now that things are picking up, and there's lots of development and lots of new housing, people are starting to look at new sites again,” Cnare said.

The report the city received from Place Dynamics will aid the city in deciding what types of development are appropriate for the Cottage Grove Road Corridor. 

“The market is telling us that this city is growing really fast, and we can barely keep up with the number of housing units. We have a very low vacancy rate, and we need to add almost 1800 residential units a year in the overall city just to keep up, not even to have added supply. What we're hearing is to look for mixed-use housing,” Cnare said, in which buildings include both retail and residential space.

Cnare added, “If somebody wanted to redevelop a site, especially the two vacant sites, that's [mixed-use housing] probably what's going to have the most impact and be the most successful.”