Occupy Madison Building Purchase

Posted December 27th, 2012 @ 10:28 AM by

If you ever worked on a real estate project, you know it lives and dies, sometimes daily. Today, the project is dead, for now. But the Isthmus just wrote a story that was, in my mind, premature. But hey, maybe someone out there can help us solve our current problem . . .

IT’S NOT A SECRET!
Because of the nature of the deal and the many, many, many, moving parts, we haven’t been talking a lot about this project, because its only a month old and we have good days and bad days and the project is not yet moving forward. There are a lot of things that need to happen before we can make it “go”. And until that happens, no sense in making everyone nuts about homeless people coming to their neighborhood. Cuz you know it is coming. Even from reasonable people. And there was no assumed support or oppositions, its just not worth the freak out if the project isn’t going forward and it just makes everything harder. And, um, this is probably one of the harder projects to tackle since the organization is forming as the real estate deal is forming.

BACKGROUND/TIMELINE
We’ve been working on the building about a month, during which time we had a 4 day Thanksgiving weekend, a Blizzard and a 4 day Christmas weekend. And we have a 4 day New Year’s Eve’s weekend coming up and a dead week in between. So, a few timing hurdles. Here’s what we have done so far.

SUMMER
- We looked all summer for an alternative to sleeping in the campgrounds and a back up plan for when they closed, we found nothing viable. We looked at 100s of options. We found no legal camping options within the city limits on a bus line. We found no other non-camping options that were viable with the help of a volunteer realtor.

NOVEMBER
- When we were camping on Lake View Hill, November 9 – 20, a property owner stopped by to see if he could help. He owns a building we looked at over the summer, and he offered to let us camp on some private land he owns elsewhere, but it wasn’t on a bus line. So we started looking at the possibility of RENTING the building for 5 months. And we started looking into what it would take to make the building into a mission house and if we could get it zoned properly and if it would be cost prohibitive.
- November 21 – Initial contact with Matt Tucker (Zoning Administrator) about requirements we would have for zoning and occupancy.
- November 22 – 25 – Thanksgiving weekend.
- November 26 – Dec 1 – Working on building issues with the city and our architect. November 27th meet with Matt Tucker to figure out best zoning options and schedule DAT (Development Assistance Team) meeting.

DECEMBER
- December 6 – Meet with the Development Assistance Team (DAT) to see if the project is viable or dead in the water.
- December 7 – We submitted an (not so awesome, quickly slammed together) application for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, but we weren’t not an entity yet, we were working on it.
- December 7 – Notify Alder Rhodes-Conway and Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner about the project.
- December 11 – We got an initial quote from the construction company – $15,000 more than we expected and it no longer makes sense to rent for 5 months while we investigate buying.
- December 12 – 13 – We investigate if we can avoid an additional $20,000 for a sprinkler system.
- December 12 – We find out we can buy the building on a land contract.
- December 14 – We incoroporate.
- December 17 – Board meets and makes all the decisions necessary to make this happen with the contractors, land contracts, fiscal agent, bank, etc. etc etc
- December 17 – Site plans submitted for review at the city.
- December 18 – Membership meets to pass by-laws
- December 18 – Board meets to ratify them to finalize our organizational meeting of the organization.
- December 19 – Preparing for blizzard and campers at Token Creek.
- December 20 and 21 – Blizzard and busy with those logistics, but continuing to get things for the fiscal agent (not final yet), get the land contract reviewed, finalizing stuff with the major donor for the project, managing media who are dying to do a story and we keep telling them not to until we have talked to people.
- December 20 – Land contract reviewed attorney and advice given on some details.
- December 22 – Notify DAIS and Center for Families staff about the project because we are hearing complaints that we have not contacted them.
- December 22 – Spend most of the day moving people back to Token Creek and digging out from storm.
- December 23 – Sunday, not much happening on this project.
- December 24 – Continue attempts to get bank account opened.
- December 25 – Christmas.
- December 26 – Membership meets to work on policies.
- December 26 – Notified that our fiscal agent fell through, so plans for fundraising and purchase of building put on indefinite hold until this is figured out.
- December 27 – Most recent bid from contractors comes in about 30% higher

WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN TO MAKE IT A “GO”
Check out this list and maybe you’ll understand why we’re not out talking about the project as if it is real yet . . . since there is a lot left to make it real. In no particular order and I’m sure I’m missing a millions issues, this is just off the top of my head.

- Get bank account opened (stupid paperwork delays)
- Find a fiscal agent
- Finish land contract documents
- Close on the building
- Submit occupancy documents
- Fundraise $100,000 ($32,000 pledged)
- Finish negotiations with the contractor and hire them
- Meet with the neighbors when the project is moving forward again
- Do demolition work and finish work in the building
- Apply for 501(c)(3) status
- Open House
- Finish website
- Fundraisers
- Get donations of items for the building -2 ADA compliant bathroom sinks, toilet paper holders (2 – 4), 3 mirrors (24 x 36 inches), 6 grab bars, towel bars (4), paper towel holders (3), lockers, 2 benches for ada accessible showers, bike racks (that can be approved by the city), paint (light colors)
- Get donations of items for people moving in (beds, dressers, couches, kitchen utensils, bedding, etc.)
- Decide who moves in
- Finish the policies for the cooperatively run housing
- 4 to 6 weeks of construction
- Make building ready
- Get Occupancy permit
- Move in (End of February?)

NOTIFYING THE NEIGHBORS
Unlike many projects, this project is a permitted use. So there is no official city approvals needed, no plan commission, no council meeting. There is a site plan required and an occupancy permit. That’s it as long as we stay a mission house. It’s an administrative approval.

If we get the Affordable Housing Trust Fund loan, we would potentially need to seek a zoning change. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Nonetheless, we had planned an open house for January 5th, but that will need to be pushed back, since we probably won’t own the building yet. And, well, at the moment, there is no project without a fiscal agent because there is no way to raise $100,000 if the donations won’t be tax deductible. So, anyone have 501(c)(3) status that wants to be a fiscal agent? (We are pursuing a few options, but nothing is certain at the moment.)

WHAT’S NEXT
Tackle list above. However, now we’re distracted by the “news” and all that it brings with it. But, we keep working to make the project work. I’m confident we can make it happen, but the moving pieces are a little messy and now its a mess the public gets to see, which doesn’t bode well for fundraising. And remembers, we are ALL volunteers. No staff to manage all this. And some of us are rapidly running out of available vacation time from work. I know people are wondering what they can do to help – fiscal agent is key at the moment. Otherwise, check out the list above and let us know if you can help with anything. (My cell phone isn’t taking messages right now, so other forms of communication are better unless you get lucky and I can answer my phone.) Also, if you want to plug in, you can come to the general assembly (GA) meetings at 7:00 at Token Creek campground. By tomorrow, what is urgent and what we need will change, so stay tuned. We will update our website as often as possible so you can see what you can do – also not exactly ready, but $%#@! here it is.


Categories: | Dane | Madison | Media

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