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Developer offers revised final piece for $80 million Union Corners project
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Developer offers revised final piece for $80 million Union Corners project


After hearing neighborhood concerns, a developer has new plans for the cornerstone final piece of the multi-phase, $80 million Union Corners project at the corner of East Washington Avenue and Milwaukee Street.

Gorman & Co. is proposing a $24 million, five-story mixed-use building — called The Nexus — with 15,400 square feet of retail space facing East Washington Avenue topped by 75 market-rate apartments facing both streets. The revised plans show 80 underground parking spaces for residents and 114 surface parking spots behind the structure.

Meanwhile, as Gorman made changes, two nonprofits have won city approvals for a $12.7 million, four-story child-care and housing project next door across South Sixth Street, continuing a dramatic transformation of the south side of that part of East Washington Avenue.

Gorman’s L-shaped building, envisioned as the crowning jewel of a redevelopment that’s unfolded under two developers over 15 years, would feature glass, metal and brick, and offer a fifth-story community room and rooftop deck.

There would be public spaces featuring sculptures at the center and ends of the structure, with one of the spaces offering a gathering area with room for market tents and seating. A community garden would be located along Winnebago Street.

“The last piece of the Union Corners puzzle has been envisioned for a long time,” said Ted Matkom, Gorman’s Wisconsin market president. “This is the best fit.”

In February, Gorman unveiled a $24 million, four-story building with 17,000 square feet of retail space, 90 apartments, underground parking and 91 surface parking spaces behind the building. It got a mixed reception, with many feeling it lacked the presence sought for the corner as well as a desired grocery, had too much surface parking and didn’t connect with other phases. The neighborhood has been supportive of earlier pieces of the redevelopment.

The new proposal is taller, and makes the corner more prominent through architecture and design, including a two-story open space that will appeal to pedestrians and allow access through the building to the parking and other spaces behind it, Matkom said.

Initial hopes for a grocery store faded as the market evolved with the opening of large groceries nearby, Matkom said. Gorman hopes to land a small cafe for part of the retail space and has received interest from financial institutions, restaurants, bakeries and others. “It will be a wide range of diverse uses,” he said.

Neighborhood reaction is just emerging.

“I’m generally underwhelmed by the plans on the table right now,” said Brad Hinkfuss, president of the Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara (SASY) Neighborhood Association. “It’s not that they’re terrible plans; it’s that the community vision for that space was so much more.”

Ald. Marsha Rummel, whose 6th District includes the site, could not be reached. A neighborhood meeting is set for Thursday.

A long struggle

McGrath Associates, the former property owner, proposed a huge mixed-use project in 2004 that won broad support and $4.9 million in tax incremental financing (TIF) support for a first phase. But the project stalled in a faltering economy in 2007.

The city opened a TIF district in the area in 2006, made $2.5 million in infrastructure improvements at the site, and acquired it for $3.57 million in 2010. The city launched a process to pick a new developer and chose Gorman in late 2012. A year later, Gorman reached a deal under which with the city would convey the property for $1 to the developer, who would repay the city’s $6 million investment through higher property taxes. The city approved a general development plan for a multi-phase project in 2014.

Gorman began with the $20 million UW Health Union Corners, a two-story, 60,000-square-foot medical clinic with underground parking completed in 2016. Next came Carbon at Union Corners, a $20.5 million, four-story mixed-use project with 90 apartments, 19,000 square feet of first-floor retail and underground parking finished the next year.

The developer just completed Generations at Union Corners, a $15 million, three-story residential project with 60 mixed-income apartments and underground parking targeted to families with grandparents serving as primary caregivers of grandchildren and families with children who live with other members of their extended family.

Child care, housing

As Gorman refined plans for the Nexus, nonprofits Movin’ Out and the Red Caboose partnered on the $12.7 million, four-story project that would offer child care and housing across South Sixth Street from Union Corners. The site is now occupied by a vacant, one-story building and two single-family homes.

The nonprofits intend to help meet the area’s needs for quality child care and lower-cost housing, with 20% to 25% of the units designated for households with a family member with a disability, in a new building at 2340 S. Winnebago St.

“This project will be unique in our community,” said Kathryne Auerback, executive director for Movin’ Out. “When our two organizations join forces, we create a unique asset that will bring new opportunities for individuals and families in Madison.”

The neighborhood worked with the nonprofits to produce a project that’s won broad support, Hinkfuss said.

The project includes a 21,000-square-foot Red Caboose child-care center with classrooms, kitchen, offices and more, and 38 apartments on the next three floors. It will provide seven surface parking spaces and 53 underground spaces.

The housing includes a mix of units for those making up to 30%, 50% and 60% of Dane County’s median income, which is $90,400 for a family of three, and some market-rate units. The city has approved $1 million for the project, and the nonprofits expect to seek funds from the county and tax credits from the Wisconsin Housing and Community Development Authority.

Gorman hopes to start construction in the summer with completion in the fall of 2021. Movin’ Out and Red Caboose anticipate a start in the second quarter of 2021 with completion a year later.


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