It’s been a long process, but a major redevelopment of the 800 block of East Washington Avenue with a new Festival Foods grocery is coming together.

On Wednesday, the city Urban Design Commission will consider final plans from Gebhardt Development for a 670,000 square foot building on the 4.5‐acre site including the 55,000 square foot grocery, 77,500 square feet of additional commercial space and 201 apartment units in a 14‐story residential tower. It is projected to open in the summer of 2015.

Nearly half of the building's size is dedicated to a five‐level structured parking area with 661 vehicle stalls and 360 bike parking stalls.

A new staff report from the city planning department is generally favorable of the $65 million, mixed-use project and recommends an ordinance change allowing the developers to go four stories higher than the 10 stories allowed under the new zoning code.

As planned, the building meets the 150-foot height limit within three miles of the Dane County Regional Airport.

The report from city planner Heather Stouder says that “in this particular case, heights above ten stories can be appropriate when limited to a small portion of the site.” She notes the higher floors would cover only about a quarter of the project area and are situated in the middle of the block to minimize the impact on the adjoining neighborhoods.

The upper floors, which the developers say are crucial to capturing views that make the project economically viable, would put the building at the same total height as the 12-story Constellation on the other side of North Livingston Street.

The project will "provide new residential opportunities for a wide range of household types and a variety of employment, dining and shopping opportunities, including a full‐service grocery store that will serve surrounding neighborhoods as well as downtown residents and employees,” writes Stouder. “Together with the Constellation ... this project will begin to generate the increased population to support continued growth of employment and commercial opportunities in the East Washington Avenue corridor.”

Despite getting a taller building than many had envisioned, the Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association isn’t voicing any major concerns at this point.

“I think (Gebhardt) has done a good job stepping it down to keep sunlight on Mifflin Street and hiding the parking,” said association president Joe Lusson.

Lusson said the development still includes things the neighborhood wanted such as a rooftop farm, passive solar elements and affordable housing. About 20 percent of the apartment units are priced for those at 50 percent of the area median income, according to the city report.

“People seem pretty comfortable with the project,” said Lusson.

Final plans from Bark Design and architect Chris Gosch shows 201 apartment units starting on the fourth floor of the 14-story tower, ranging from efficiencies to three bedrooms, plus one four-bedroom unit on two levels on the top floors. A second phase would add 25 condominiums and 20 “live work” units along East Mifflin Street.

“We’ve done our best to work closely with the city all through what has been a lengthy process,” says Gosch.

One potential snare is a request from the city to limit parking for an anticipated 170 employees of Festival Foods. The planning department report urges the Onalaska-based grocer to consider measures like offering employees reduced price bus passes or providing incentives to workers who walk or ride their bike to the job or even charging employees to park.

Nick Arlt, a spokesman for Festival Foods, says the grocer has never been asked to submit any kind of transportation demand management plan before but adds there is still time to work out something.

“We’re still 15 months away,” he said.

It is the first Festival Foods with structured parking in an urban setting.

Also, the developers are continuing to negotiate with the city over tax increment financing. The developers are seeking some $6 million in public subsidy but Gosch declined to offer more specifics.

Gebhardt has a contract with the city of Madison to purchase land on the north side of the 800 block for $3.15 million. That agreement is good until early 2015 but requires that a 50,000 square foot grocery be part of the development.

The site is part of the former Don Miller auto dealership the city purchased in 2010 for $5.8 million. Gebhardt earlier bought 1.5 acres on the north side of the 700 block of East Washington and built the 12-story Constellation mixed-use apartment project which is now open.

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