636 w. washington

An architectural rendering of an apartment building proposed for 636 W. Washington Ave.

The Madison Urban Design Commission on Wednesday gave initial approval to a proposed project that would replace the Mobil gas station and Kelley’s Market at 636 W. Washington Ave. with an apartment building. 

The proposal is for a five-story, 50-unit building with underground parking and ground-floor commercial space. 

Wednesday’s meeting was the third time members of the development team, led by Kirk Keller of Plunkett Raysich Architects, appeared before the UDC, which continued to give direct feedback about the look of the proposed building. 

Landscaping was of particular interest to UDC. The architects had proposed using annual plants that would have a “tropical” and “lush” feel during summer months and then perhaps something like evergreens during winter. But members of the UDC thought that each November, that approach would provide a “barren” look and instead suggested placement of perennials near the back of the building.  

Because the commission gave initial — rather than final — approval to the project, it will move on to the Plan Commission before returning to Urban Design to receive final approval.  

“It was very constructive feedback,” Keller said after the presentation. “We’ve had good support from the neighborhood associations and people are in support of our project.” 

Keller told UDC that architects have made modifications to go to a darker colored brick and made sure that some of the siding was changed to reflect suggestions from previous UDC presentations.  

Commissioners suggested that when the architects return for final approval they will have made some modifications to their artistic renderings to give a more “realistic” feel and to make more clear what the sides of the buildings will look like.  

On Wednesday, UDC also heard an information presentation for Archipelago Village, a proposal encompassing several different projects on the 900 block of East Washington Avenue. 

Developer Curt Brink is proposing a five-story, 92,000 square foot office building and a five-story above-grade parking structure on the block. If approved, it will be the new home for The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA), which would occupy the office building’s top three floors. 

Brink already has approval for a 10-story office building at 929 E. Washington Ave. which would share the five story parking structure with Hotel Indigo, the WHEDA building and a future 10-story apartment building on East Main Street.  

Brink wants to have as many of the three proposed buildings (WHEDA, the parking ramp and the future apartment building) to be approved at relatively the same time so that constructing them is as efficient as possible. Commissioners said the fact that one piece of the proposed Archipelago Village has already been approved complicates matters as the panel goes through the process of making suggestions or edits to the other proposed elements of the large project. There’s a risk of forcing subtle changes to previously approved projects.  

“I have concerns about the timeline,” Commissioner Christian Harper said. “We went through so much to approve the East Wash part and now this is making fairly subtle changes and that seems to be changing subtly some of an approved project.” 

Brink is most concerned with the parking structure being built. Right now, there is very limited parking behind Hotel Indigo and the proposed parking ramp itself would provide parking for all of the businesses in the area. Brink said the apartment building, which has not yet been officially proposed, would include units reserved for people making 80% of the county’s median income.  

Overall, UDC gave good reviews to the proposed Archipelago Village.  

“I just want to say, regarding the WHEDA building, I love it,” Commissioner Shane Bernau said. “I’m excited to see that develop and the parking structure too. I like what I’m seeing.” 

Brink, along with his architectural team, will come before Urban Design again at a future date seeking either initial or final approval.