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Knapp House

Local B&B owners Bob Klebba and David Waugh have proposed renovating the historic Knapp House, the former governor's mansion, at 130 E. Gilman St., into an 8-room hotel with event space and a cafe. 

A historic building on East Gilman Street, once home to Wisconsin governors, has received city zoning approvals to become a hotel.

“I think our plan will give another 100 years of life to a 160-year-old building,” said Bob Klebba, who is renovating the property with David Waugh. The pair also owns a historic bed and breakfast at 744 E. Gorham St.

The project appeared before the Madison Plan Commission on Monday night. It has already received design approvals and a certificate of appropriateness from the city Landmarks Commission. 

The building, located at 130 E. Gilman St., is 162 years old, and formerly housed UW graduate students. In 2016, the UW Board of Regents decided to sell the building, known as the Knapp House, after receiving an estimate that it would cost almost $1.9 million to renovate the building and make it accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Before that, it was home to 17 Wisconsin governors and is registered as a national historic landmark. Klebba and Waugh plan to call their businesses “Governor’s Mansion Inn,” and will turn the house into an eight-room hotel with event space and a cafe.

The design application states they plan to “decorate it as a house museum” to preserve all the history associated with the building.

Renovations call for adding seven bathrooms, adding seven parking spaces to the existing three, a new sprinkler system, remodeling the kitchen, adding a cafe, and making the west side entrance accessible.

Most of the commission's questions focused on parking, looking at the number of spaces, size and positioning of the lot with recommendations to make it “more sensitive to the historic structure” of the space.

Ald. Ledell Zellers, whose district includes the property, said she was very supportive and noted that neighbors had brought up concerns about the parking and noise from events planned for the space. But she commended the applicants for “working so well with the neighborhood.”

Klebba and Waugh plan to hold up to 12 events per year with up to 100 people. For those events, guests will be able to park in a 38-space lot at 139 E. Gilman and will be strongly encouraged to utilize city parking garages rather than street parking.

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Commissioners approved the zoning request, noting that they considered the project a “great use for this historic property.”

The project still must appear before the City Council. If approved, the inn is slated to open in May 2018.

Also before the Plan Commission was a long-discussed development on the intersection of Fish Hatchery Road and South Park Street. The commission recommended approval of the project. 

The mixed-use project by T. Wall Enterprises named “Peloton Place Residences” is slated for 1004 - 1032 S. Park St. The plan proposes to build over 12,000 square feet of commercial space, five live-work spaces, 157 apartment units and an underground parking ramp.