An Indiana-based development company is proposing a major workforce housing project on Madison’s far east side.
Some neighbors have expressed concerns about the project, citing issues at nearby affordable apartments, with others upset that they just recently found out about the plans.
KCG Development is behind the project currently known as the Meadowlands Multi-Family Project, which would create seven townhouses and 216 apartments. All of the units would be affordable workforce housing, said Matt Gilhooly, vice president of development at KCG.
While details are still being finalized, the development currently plans to target families making about 60% of the area median income. In 2019 in Dane County, that would be an individual making $42,180 or a family of four making $60,240.
Developments like the Meadowlands are aimed at “working class people throughout the community who may not know themselves, quite frankly, that they would qualify for affordable housing,” like a new firefighter, Gilhooly said.
According to project plans submitted in February, the apartments would be spread over four buildings ranging from three to four stories, with town homes in a fifth building. The property is located south of Interstate 94 and the buildings have addresses on Milwaukee Street, Windstone Drive and Advantage Drive.
Colin Punt, a planner for the city, said the development would include 221 underground parking spaces and 179 surface spaces, plus townhouse garages and driveways.
There was a neighborhood meeting on the project with the Sprecher East Neighborhood Association in January, said Ald. Lindsay Lemmer, District 3. That meeting went well but was “not too heavily attended,” Gilhooly said, and there wasn't much feedback in the following months.
Lemmer took over as alder in April and only recently discovered that it appears residents west of Sprecher Road were not informed about the January meeting, she said.
So when Lemmer posted an update on her city blog about the project last week, it “came as a big surprise to them,” she said, and she received emails from “a lot of folks who are not pleased with the plan.”
“The neighborhood is just on the other side of the street. They should have been engaged,” she said.
Neighborhood meetings are usually advertised through the neighborhood association’s or alder’s email lists, blogs or newsletters, Punt explained, but there isn’t a formal notification process.
Punt also noted that KCG complied with city ordinance by emailing the district alder and Sprecher East Neighborhood Association about their intent to submit a land use application to the city.
KCG will now host another meeting in August so the public can voice its concerns and learn more about the project, Gilhooly said. The meeting will take place Aug. 8, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in Room 108 of Door Creek Church, 6602 Dominion Drive.
Lemmer has also heard concerns from residents citing issues at the nearby Harmony apartments. Harmony at Grandview Commons is a 94-unit affordable housing development made up of six two-story buildings at 116 Milky Way that held a grand opening ceremony in February.
Harmony sets rents targeting households earning 60% of the area's median income. East District Captain Tom Snyder said in June that since the beginning of the year, there have been several dozen police calls to the complex and MPD officers have heard complaints from neighbors about “quality of life” issues, like littering, loitering, parking, loud music, perceived drug use and juvenile misbehavior. Synder has since retired.
Royal Capital Group, the developer and owner, and ACC Management Group, the property manager, have been cooperative and are working on solutions, Lemmer said in June. The police stepped up their presence in the area, Snyder said, through their community policing team and parking enforcement officers.
But Lemmer later said that "cooperation from The Harmony dropped off shortly after the meeting with neighbors in late May."
This week, Lemmer posted an update saying she discussed the Harmony apartments with Assistant City Attorney Jennifer Zilavy, who is now “reviewing the situation and options.” Lemmer will meet with Harmony and the MPD next week to “discuss immediate actions and consequences for noncompliance,” she said. She noted some adjustments to parking should help alleviate neighborhood concerns about crowded streets.
"I'm optimistic that we'll have a path forward as a result of this upcoming week's meeting between the Harmony ownership and management, Attorney Zilavy, MPD and myself," Lemmer said in an email.
Kevin Newell, president of Royal Capital Group, said in June that his organization is taking steps to address issues at Harmony, but also believes Madison needs to re-examine how tenants of affordable housing developments are received in their neighborhoods.
Some neighbors have taken a concerning tone in criticizing the development, Newell said. He shared an email from a neighbor that calls Harmony tenants names like thugs, degenerates, gangbangers and barbarians.
“This is a bigger issue for me ... it goes beyond someone being upset about loud music,” Newell said. “I’m having a safety concern related to my residents now, because it’s hard for me to correlate trash and noise complaints to someone automatically calling them a thug and degenerate.”
In a recent update about the Meadowlands, Lemmer reminded residents that "the presence of affordable housing does not equate to increased crime and community problems. However, lack of onsite support, management, and tenant vetting contributes to these issues."
The Meadowlands project is slated to appear before the city’s Plan Commission on Aug. 26 and City Council on Sept. 3.
Punt said construction has been proposed to start in late 2019 or early 2020, to be completed by late 2021.