Developer Curt Brink wants to bring an 11-story office building to the 900 block of East Washington Avenue, establishing employment space on a street known recently for its apartment developments.
Brink's proposed office building is just the first phase of his plans for the block, named “Archipelago Village.”
At a neighborhood meeting Tuesday night, Brink and his son, Matt Brink, laid out their long-term goals, which would introduce more office, commercial and apartments to the block, hoping to create an active and in-demand employment block.
Curt Brink and investors Jim and Marlene Korb bought the 4.3 acre site at 901 E. Washington Ave., the former home of the Mautz Paint factory, in 2002. In 2005, Brink proposed a $250 million, 27-story project for the block, a plan that was hailed by some at the time for challenging Madison's status quo on building heights, but ultimately went nowhere.
Brink is currently turning the historic Kleuter building on the property into a 144-room hotel and restaurant known as Hotel Indigo, which will open April 1. And now he wants to build an office building along East Washington Avenue with a parking garage behind it.
Up to the first three floors of the office building would be slated for retail and restaurants, with the upper stories dedicated to offices. The upper portion of the building is currently designed to be completely glass, although cost estimates will determine if that’s feasible, Matt Brink said. The base stone in the lower levels would be a limestone, meant to mimic the facade of Breese Stevens Field, located across the street.
Parking on site would have five levels above grade and one below grade, topped with a green roof with access for office tenants.
Because the proposed building is over five stories, the project would require a conditional use approval, but would not appear before the City Council because employment is a permitted use in the zone. It would also require the demolition of 924 E. Main Street, currently a garage, and 945 E. Washington Ave.
The proposed buildings abide by setback, step-back and height requirements, Curt Brink said. The building was originally proposed at 13 stories, but according to the Federal Aviation Administration, it can only be 11 stories.
The project is not currently asking for TIF funds, the Brinks said.
The project is slated to appear before the Urban Design Commission for an informational meeting on Jan. 16, and will appear before the Plan Commission Mar. 25. If approved, construction would start in July 2019 with an aim to be finished in June 2021.
A second phase of construction would expand the parking garage, add another office building to the corner of East Washington Avenue and South Brearly Street and ideally bring a mixed-use building with retail space and apartments to East Main Street. Matt Brink talked about his desire to bring a child care center to the development, which he said will be tricky because of the peculiarities of zoning for child care, but a great asset to the employers on the site.
Matt Brink said it would be “advantageous” to do both phases at once, but it’s unclear when the second phase of construction would begin. The developers do not yet own the Madison Credit Union building on the corner of South Brearly Street and East Washington Avenue, which would be necessary for phase two.
The first phase of construction would bring about 240,000 square feet of office space and 722 parking stalls, while the final buildout will bring about 374,000 square-feet of office space, 152 apartments and 920 parking stalls.
Patrick Heck, a member of the Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association council, said after the meeting that he “appreciated almost everything about the proposal” but was still concerned about how traffic is going to fold into these little old streets.”
“It’s a lot of cars. But if we get bus rapid transit, than maybe a lot of those employees will eventually not even want to drive to these garages, which would be nice,” Heck said.
East Washington Avenue has seen plenty of new apartments of late: Gebhardt Development’s Constellation on the 700 block of East Washington, the 14-story Galaxie High Rise Apartments and Stone House Development’s 11-story Lyric Apartments on the 1000 block of East Washington. Stone House also plans to add an 11-story apartment building and a four-story Madison Youth Arts Center to the block.
“There’s just so much demand, the vacancy rate is so low in Madison, it’s almost ‘build it and you fill it,’” Matt Brink said. “If anyone had the option to residential versus office, I believe the vast percentage would consider residential first.”
That’s not an option for the Brinks’ project, which is zoned for Traditional Employment. Even so, Matt Brink said conversations with brokers and employers have shown “unequivocally” enough demand to fill the office building right now.
“There is a really strong demand to come into the East Wash corridor,” Matt said. “The market is telling us that it’s there.”
The site has many nearby amenities attractive to employers, the Brinks said, with Capitol views and easy access to places like The Sylvee theater and Breese Stevens field. Office space in urban infill areas, as opposed to suburban employment parks, is “more in vogue” than it was a few years ago, Matt Brink said.
Eventually, the Brinks would like to bring an apartment building to the East Main Street side of the block, because a mix of uses keeps the site more activated, said Doug Hursh, an architect with Potter Lawson who is working on the project. With just employment, the block would “die on the weekends,” he said.
Having mixed uses also helps accommodate parking needs for the site, Hursh said. The office space will take up parking during business hours, while apartments, hotel and retail space will take over on weekends and evenings.