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By MIKE  IVEY | The Capital Times |, January 18, 2014

Developers are close to breaking ground at Union Corners on Madison’s east side, the high-profile but  long vacant parcel at East Washington Avenue and Milwaukee Street.

Gorman & Co. has filed an application with the city for Phase I of the  project, a $20 million, 2-story, 60,000 square foot UW Health clinic.

The general development plan (GDP) will be presented before the city Urban Design Commission at its Wednesday meeting.

Developers are hoping to begin construction on the clinic building in late  summer, with UW Health looking to move in during the summer of 2015, says Gorman & Co. spokesman  Joe Schwenker.

The clinic will occupy the corner of East Washington Avenue and Milwaukee  Street.

More development is slated for the rest of the 11-acre site and plans show a  mix of residential and commercial buildings along both sides of a rerouted  Winnebago Street.

But Schwenker cautions that plans are fluid and could likely change.

“It’s all going to depend on market conditions,” he says.

Also at Wednesday’s UDC meeting, developers will present plans for a 12-story, 109-unit apartment building at 617 N. Segoe Road  near Hilldale Shopping Center.

That project from Madison landlord Jim Stopple has generated strong neighborhood opposition, both from residents in the  adjacent Weston condominiums and those living on the quiet streets behind the  mall.

Over the past decade, Union Corners went from one of the most promising  development projects in Madison history to one of the city’s worst eyesores.

In 2003, before the housing bust sent the national and local economies into a  tailspin, developer Todd McGrath had plans to turn the former Rayovac battery  plant and a vacant grocery store site into a mix of high-density housing,  shopping and open space. The $70 million project was widely hailed as a  game-changer, something that would finally spur development up and down the  blighted East Washington Avenue corridor.

When the recession hit, however, all those dreams were drowned in a river of debt, and McGrath ended up losing the  property in a voluntary foreclosure. The city of Madison eventually stepped in,  buying the land from M&I Bank for $3.57 million, with the expectation it  could eventually find a private developer to take over the site once the economy  improved.

The city solicited proposals for the site and eventually selected Gorman  after other developers dropped out. In July 2012, the city sold the property to  Gorman for $1 in lieu of making a TIF loan to the developer.

The city hopes to recoup its estimated $6 million in land and infrastructure  costs through new property taxes generated by the development.