Plans for a mixed-use development on the corner of South Gammon and Mineral Point roads failed to gain initial approval Wednesday from the Madison Urban Design Commission due to neighborhood concerns and what the commission saw as a lack of planning specificity.
“We’re excited by the project," commission chair Dick Wagner said. "But as an overall project, we’re finding some gaps.”
The project, known as "West Place," aims to transform the 23 acres bounded by Mineral Point Road, South Gammon Road, Tree Lane Drive and Tamarack Condominiums into a mixed-use, urban-style development. Livesey Company is the developer of the project, which will combine retail, office, restaurants, commercial services and residential space.
Some neighbors are nervous that the project will encroach on the nature in their backyards.
The project would be built in five phases over the next five to 15 years, potentially adding up to 17 buildings. The application states that future uses could include a grocery store, senior housing and a hotel. Plans include a new private road, Monona Drive, that winds through the center of the development, which the application refers to as “the spine that ties the project together.”
The first phase of the project would create a public plaza, as well as residential, office and retail space at the corner of Mineral Point and Gammon roads. It would also construct the first half of Monona Drive.
Phase one would include total buildings: two retail/residential buildings, two retail/office buildings and one four-story residential-only building. The retail spaces in all buildings would be on the first floor.
This would add about 100 residential units, 50,450 square feet of retail, 22,620 square feet of office space and over 600 parking stalls. The public plaza would be one third of an acre, and could potentially be used for farmer’s markets or music festivals. The estimated cost for the first phase is $56 million.
The area of the entire project would be rezoned as the city’s first mixed-use center (MXC), which requires that a master plan for the site be approved before development begins. At Wednesday’s meeting, the applicant was asking for approval for both the master plan and the first phase of the plan.
MXC zoning is intended to create a pedestrian-friendly, high-density area with mixed-use buildings.
“(MXC zoning) is about dropping an urban neighborhood into what is now a suburban neighborhood,” said Melissa Huggins, a consultant for the project who works at Urban Assets of Madison. “So it’s a bit of shock … but in point of fact, that is what the zoning is trying to do.”
This has led to extensive neighborhood feedback, she said. A number of residents appeared at the meeting to express their overall support and state concerns, most specifically about the potential loss of the natural environment around their neighborhood.
Janet Hirsch, speaking on behalf of Tamarack Trails Community Services Association, condos near the proposed development, said there was support for the project and no issues with the first phase. But she listed concerns with the master plan including building heights and the development’s impact on zoning and parking.
Hirsch and other residents said maintaining green space was important to the community, and pointed to development effects on trees, wildlife and views.
“The landscaping is actually one of our pride and joys in terms of what the residents love,” Hirsch said.
Others voiced a fear that buildings with many levels would block light, or of losing the views from their back decks. Some wanted to ensure that buildings weren't built too close to their properties.
Commissioners said they were unwilling to approve the master plan without more details about the project in order to address these and other concerns.
“My concerns are how you’re going to buffer your project to the neighbors,” Ald. Sherri Carter said.
They wanted more specifics on building heights, building use and setbacks from property lines.
“What steps did you do to address building heights, shade, buffer zones?” said Rafeeq Asad, a design professional on the commission. “Can we see some of that on the next go-round?”
“For a planning document, that level of detail is what we need to see,” said commission member Tom Dechant.
Huggins said some of those details, like building heights, depend on the use of the building, which in many cases has not yet been determined.
The commission voted to refer both the master plan and phase one to the next UDC meeting. The project is scheduled to appear before the Plan Commission on Feb. 20.
Madison Mallards stadium renovations
The commission gave final approval for a renovation of the Duck Blind at the Madison Mallards' Warner Park stadium. The new plans improve the general admission area of the Duck Blind — an all-you-can-eat party deck at the stadium — and add new suites. The previous general admission area has already been demolished.
The $1 million project will utilize 37 industrial shipping containers, taking advantage an upcycling architectural trend sometimes known as “cargotecture." It will be the first permanent project in Madison to use shipping containers.
Construction on the Duck Blind is scheduled to begin in March and end by mid-May at the latest.