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1720 Monroe St. rendering

A rendering of a proposed five-story, mixed-use apartment building at 1720 Monroe St., seen here from Monroe Street. 

A proposal to build a five-story mixed-use apartment building on Monroe Street might not yet be everything that the neighborhood wants, but residents say they're glad that the developer is taking their concerns seriously.

“Just the thought that they’re making changes in response to our concerns, that’s kind of a breath of fresh air,” said David Hoffert, president of the Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhood Association.

The proposal by Urban Land Interests would demolish the one-story Associated Bank building at 1720 Monroe St. and build a five-story building, with almost 16,400 square feet of commercial space on the first floor and 68 apartment units in the four floors above.

Anne Neujahr Morrison, with ULI, said the complex will be a great option for nearby residents looking to downsize or young families starting out. Morrison said ULI has gotten “a lot of interest” from neighbors interested in selling their homes and moving into the building of one, two and three-bedroom apartments.

The plans call for an underground parking garage with 70 spaces as well as 14 surface spaces.

ULI expects four to six commercial tenants in the first floor space, which is “distinctly designed not to fit ‘big box’ retailers,” the design application says. ULI is “looking for and we’re already attracting interest from neighborhood retailers,” Morrison said, but could not yet name specific tenants.

The design application states that while the development team has “received a great deal of positive feedback,” about the plans, “the very closest neighbors have certain concerns” about traffic, setbacks and restaurant exhaust from the heating, venting and air conditioning (HVAC) system.

ULI has been working to alleviate those concerns. Morrison said they’ve committed to support a “no left turn” policy from the underground parking onto Stockton Court. The application states that the development has committed to “venting restaurant exhaust through the roof or otherwise away from any adjacent single family homes.”

They also removed part of the building from the design. It was previously 45 feet from the lot line and it’s now 84 feet away.

The five-story height “hasn’t come up as a major issue,” Morrison said, but residents want to make sure the building fits in with the houses along Spooner Street. She pointed out that Monroe Commons across the street is six stories, so the development is “not breaking new records in terms of height.”

Hoffert noted that some residents would like fewer stories. Ald. Sara Eskrich said she’s heard less about height than she usually does in residential neighborhoods, and any concerns “seem to be more about the context and how it fits into adjoining properties.”

Eskrich said she’s heard the same concerns about HVAC venting, traffic and impacts of the height, but the development “has elicited some strong support from the neighborhood. A coming shadow study and traffic impact analysis will help move the discussion forward, she said, and those should be available “well in advance” of a January appearance before the Plan Commission.

Hoffert he said he appreciates that ULI has been responsive to feedback and concerns.

“We certainly appreciate the engagement and responsiveness that ULI has demonstrated so far and feel that this should be a model for how infill development proposals are handled in Madison,” he wrote in an email.

That doesn’t mean that neighbors have gotten everything they’ve asked for or that everything is resolved, Hoffert said, but he’s “cautiously optimistic” that a plan that works for everyone will emerge.

ULI sees the development as a way to restore retail to the site. Associated Bank has plans to move into an under-construction development a little further up the street at 1605 Monroe St. The one-story building with a surface parking lot it leaves behind are “not exactly helping retail in the area,” Morrison said.

Hoffert said the DMNA historically tends to oppose new development, but thinks residents generally understand that redevelopment of this site is inevitable.

“I don’t think I can say to you, yes, we're behind the idea. Our job right now is to work for the best possible solution and work with the best possible developer,” he said.

Eskrich emphasized that the development is still in the review stage, and is just beginning its city approvals. If approved, the project would start construction in May 2018 and open in July 2019.

“We’re trying our best to make it a very thoughtful project that’s a great fit for Monroe Street,” Morrison said.

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