Madison, WI

Downtown Madison businesses are being pushed out by new developments, gentrification

Maggie Degnan

By Maggie Degnan
street view of Community Pharmacy, A Room of One's Own and Canterbury InnMaggie Degnan

Earlier this month, Community Pharmacy employees and Madison residents watched the local pharmacy's iconic sign leave the store front. On July 31, Community Pharmacy will move to a new location at 130 S. Fair Oaks Avenue on Madison’s near east side. The move will cost the shop $150,000.

According to the pharmacy`s cooperative page, the current location was marked for redevelopment. WKOW27 reported that the pharmacy was told it had to move and given less than a year to prepare.

Community Pharmacy’s History
Community Pharmacy store front week before final moveMaggie Degnan

In 1972, UW-Madison’s Wisconsin Student Association (WSA) sponsored a volunteer-based pharmacy for students who needed affordable access to medication. By 1974, the pharmacy became an independent entity, operating collectively by pharmacists and other staff.

In 1985, the pharmacy found itself a home at its current location on State Street.

In March of 2021, Core Spaces’ proposed plan to build on State Street was passed. This plan is the largest project the Chicago company has taken on, and it's causing the displacement of multiple community staples like Community Pharmacy.

Oliv Madison

The project, “Oliv Madison,” will cost Core Spaces $100 million. “The proposal also includes plans to include ‘affordable workforce’ housing units, something that District 4 Alder Mike Verveer encouraged in correspondence with the developer,” according to the Wisconsin State Journal. The building will be in a location designated by the city as a “super preferred area” for affordable housing.

The redevelopment is “for young students and young professionals.” Other buildings owned by Core Spaces include the James and the Hub. Both locations’ advertisements directly target UW students. The Hub is actually “The Hub on Campus Madison,” officially, and its website says “Apartments near UW-Madison made easy.”

Other local favorites including A Room of One’s Own bookstore, the Canterbury Inn, and Casa De Lara are being forced to leave.

“While none of them are landmarked, we acknowledge that some of these buildings have unique and interesting designs that contribute to the downtown experience,” senior development manager of Core Spaces Mark Goehausen said. “As such, we have decided to incorporate these existing facades into our overall building design. This will help the building keep the interesting, varied streetscape in place while incorporating both the old and the new,” Goehausen said.

The Hub is referred to on the Core Spaces website as “our University of Wisconsin student apartments.” It was completed in 2015 and the James in 2017, according to the Daily Cardinal.

“However, only 77 out of the 481 units have been designated to be ‘affordable’ — which comes in at just over 16%. In a city with a vacancy rate of three percent that is experiencing rising costs associated with rent, this may prove to be a serious problem.”

How is this possible? The Madison Plan Commission’s role

Developers have to get their proposals approved by Madison’s Plan Commission, which is the decision-making body for the majority of Land Use Applications.

When the Commission receives an application, its materials are circulated to multiple city agencies for review, according to City of Madison. The Plan Commission can approve, reject or refer Land Use Applications.

The stores and store owners do not get a final say.

Madison’s geographical history and its relation to future development plans

Madison is on an isthmus between two lakes: Mendota and Monona. The land originally belonged to the Native Americans and was known as the Ho-Chunk nation. In 1837, colonizers threatened and forced the Ho-Chunk Nation off its remaining Wisconsin lands. UW-Madison was founded on these lands not a decade later in 1848.

Gentrification and colonization have something in common: dispossession. The forced redevelopment that the owners of stores like Community Pharmacy have vocally expressed they oppose has dispossessed Community Pharmacy of its location, or as the owners called it, their home. People’s history was replaced in favor of capital gain for Madison, but not all of its locals.

The forced removal of Indigenous people reflected the devaluation of human life in favor of capital.

For some, this current dispossession stands as a distressing reminder of other dispossessions and their implications of past peoples.

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UW-Madison student majoring in Journalism and Spanish with a certificate in Public Policy. Articles provided will have a special focus on government, racial inequities, student and community leaders and other local matters in the city of Madison. Soon to be Badger Herald State News Associate in Fall 2021.

Madison, WI

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