MADISON, Ala. - Last year, WHNT News 19 introduced you to the organization, Madison Up. The non-profit has been working for the last year to purchase 1.6 acres off of Wall Triana Highway and Gillespie Road and develop it into a park.
Madison Up is a multifaceted organization.
In just a few weeks, they'll have a block party in West Madison to raise money to repair a fence, and they conduct many community oriented events to bring all walks of life together. As for their center piece project to develop a park and enrichment center, we found things may not be exactly as advertised.
Scrolling through Alex Riley's Facebook page, you'll find plenty of posts that share his dream for a park in West Madison.
“We want to put a public park, playground and enrichment center on this lot of land," says Riley.
Riley is transparent about the fact they don't own the land yet, but that the dream of that changing is very much alive. He's already envisioned of what it might look like.
“Where all the families and the eight communities in this area can benefit from job resources, activities and events,” he says.
The only problem? The land isn't for sale.
In emails obtained by WHNT News 19, S & S Property Management reached out to Alex Riley two times.
Once in April, they told Riley, "Unfortunately, [the investors] have no interest in selling the land at this time. Additionally, the land is held as collateral for our loan and the bank is unwilling to release that collateral," Derek Sanders said in the email.
Then in July, Sanders ended all doubt, saying "To be clear, we are going to develop the lot ourselves in that corner. We are not going to sell that lot now or in the future to Madison Up. You should plan to pursue another piece of property for Madison Up's needs," writes the landowner.
“Did you get that email?" reporter Chris Davis asks. "I didn’t receive this email,” says Riley.
Riley says, he did communicate with Sanders through email, but never saw these specific emails.
Even after showing him the messages, Riley told us that didn't change his perspective about posting about the lot on social media.
“This is the main land that we want to work towards, but we’re also keeping our options open. There’s options open all around this area here," says Riley.
Many organizations have given to Madison Up, but Riley insists, they were all told where their money was going.
“When they’ve donated, did you mention to them this land may not be potentially in play?" asked reporter Chris Davis.
"No, like I said, we did not receive this email right here, this is something that’s new to my eyes. Senator Holtzclaw, his donation is going towards the block party on September 23rd," says Riley.
So now the question becomes, if Riley was overselling a dream.
"Is it misleading to tell people that the park will likely be located here?" asked Davis.
"No, it’s not misleading. What we want to do is, we want to make sure we highlight this right here. Sometimes you have to believe unbelievably, and continue to stay in someone’s ear and show them the plans," says Riley.
We reached out to S & S Property Management and they sent us this statement:
“We have been contacted by Alex Riley and Madison Up in the past about selling a lot that we own at Gillespie and Wall Triana to them. We told Mr. Riley on July 18, 2017 via email that we plan to develop the lot ourselves, that we will not be selling the lot to Madison Up, and that they should plan to pursue another piece of property for their organization’s needs. We wish Madison Up the best of luck with finding another piece of property that meets their needs.”