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Managing Editor’s Column: April/May 2018

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I began working for the Northside Planning Council shortly after the announcement of the Willy Street Co-op’s expansion into Northside TownCenter and two months before the new store opened its doors. It was nearly a year after Oscar Mayer’s then shocking announcement, and nearly a year before that announcement became very real, as the iconic factory emptied, slowed and then stopped. And during my last (nearly) two years here, business news has cracked and snapped to the surface like bursting popcorn kernels, leaving a trail of development stretching from Fordem Avenue to Tennyson Lane.

I thought of the Co-op and Oscar Mayer as bookends to a period of several years on the Northside, but wondered if they were milestones, or the whiffs of the future of economic development on the Northside. And I wondered how the many business announcements between the two fit within the broader story.

When writing about economic development on the Northside, I asked the people that I interviewed: is the Northside undergoing a revitalization? Although there were mixed responses, the consensus was that revitalization was not the right word to describe recent trends on the Northside.

There was lingering discomfort with what the word had buried in it: assumptions of past stagnation, or specific visions of the future. Businesses have closed and others have opened on the Northside in a steady flow over many years, punctuated only by occasional headlines that signal larger events. And although local organizations and businesses navigate these shifts and may try to influence their direction, the most recent wave of development is largely credited to increases seen throughout the city.

A new connection arose during those conversations, though: the tie between affordable housing and nearby business development. Although we didn’t have the space to explore that part of the story in this issue, we will publish a second part in the next issue.

The front page article about business trends on the Northside fits alongside other articles in this issue. Ruth Rohlich, who offers years of perspective as a Northside resident, former member of the Northside Planning Council Board of Directors and business specialist with the City of Madison, is interviewed about these trends, and contributed an article about the city’s involvement with the future of the Oscar Mayer site. Lauri Lee, as a part of the Northside News, Northside Economic Development Coalition (NEDC) and Northside Business Association, highlighted both new and longtime Northside businesses in articles and in this issue’s special insert.

Further updates from NEDC are available online at northsidenews.org. The boom of new businesses promises to continue, and these updates will highlight announcements about openings, closings and other notable changes.

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