The Urban League of Greater Madison has embarked on an ambitious building project that aims to reduce racial disparities in terms of income and housing in Dane County and also preserve Madison’s largest African American enclave.
Currently, the civil rights organization is raising funds to build its Black Business Hub on South Park Street, a four-story, 80,000-square-foot building to house governmental and nonprofit entities and serve as an entrepreneurial ecosystem. Dr. Ruben Anthony, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison, spoke about the project at the Jan. 20 Waunakee Rotary meeting.
About half of the Black Business Hub will be rented at market rate to organizations such as the Workforce Economic Development Corporation, the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce and the WWBIC.
The other half will be leased at below market rates to entrepreneurs. The building will include a restaurant, pop-up art shows in the lower level, and a commercial kitchen that can be rented by food truck operators. A Black architect has designed the building, and Ruben said he is most impressed with the indoor-outdoor connection of spaces.
An accelerator fund is also being created to provide a revolving, forgivable loan program and grants for startups. With a network in place, business people will have access to technical, human resources and other support and training.
Ruben said he and the project partners expect the Black Business Hub will serve more than 200 entrepreneurs annually, and will result in the creation of generational wealth. Inspiration for the project came after Madison College announced plans to build a campus in the vicinity, he said.
It is expected to be a catalyst for change at the Village on Park as it helps to beautify the area. Also, it will help retain Black talent in the region and serve as a model for empowering low-income communities.
The grand opening is expected at the end of 2022 or early 2023.
Guests: Dr. Ruben Anthony, speaker.
Visiting Rotarians: None.
 Other news:
-During this January cold, the thought of the Easter Egg Hunt might warm you up. Phil Willems told the club this is planned for April 9 and will be a drive-through event again.
-President Ross Mauer said beginning next week, our meetings will be held in a hybrid format. A device called an Owl will be able to move the camera capture all at the meeting. Ross says it won’t be perfect, but the idea is to engage as many members as possible. Some members simply can’t make an in-person meeting; others are staying away because of COVID-19 transmission concerns. This allows meetings to be the most accessible.
Birthdays: Jan. 28, Jim Elvekrog; Feb. 1, George Ohlendorf.
Anniversaries: None
Greeters: Jan. 27, Sarah Whitley and Phil Willems;  Feb. 3, Rich Wipperfurth and Chris Zellner; Feb. 10, Cassey Zickert and Peggy Acker-Farber; Feb. 17: Leonard Allen and Robert Arntz.