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Big housing project proposed for farmland on Madison's North Side
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Big housing project proposed for farmland on Madison's North Side

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North Side development site

The Annex Group has proposed 315 affordable housing units in multiple buildings plus a community center and other amenities for a 29-acre parcel in the town of Burke that would be annexed to the city of Madison.

Another big chunk of farmland on the city’s North Side may soon give way to housing, just like on the booming far East and West sides.

The Annex Group of Indianapolis is proposing 315 lower-cost housing units in multiple buildings, a community center, three stormwater retention ponds, an expansion of Whitetail Ridge Park and parking on 29.2 acres of farmland at the corner of Packers Avenue and Wheeler Road that’s currently in the town of Burke.

“The ongoing need for the affordable housing in the city is what prompted the developer’s interest in Madison,” said Melissa Huggins, principal of Urban Assets consulting of Madison, which is part of the development team. “This site provided an opportunity to meet that need.”

Affordable housing

An annexation agreement between the city and town called for the land to be annexed to the city by 2022. But for the proposed project, the current owner has filed a petition to annex the land for this project as well as adjacent land for the Parks Division, Huggins said.

The project will offer a diversity of housing types, including single-family detached homes, multifamily buildings and townhouses catering to a variety of ages and families, including:

  • Two 60-unit buildings
  • Nine 16-unit buildings
  • Three 6-unit buildings
  • 33 townhouse units.

The proposal follows the Rifkin Group’s recent plans for a separate mixed-use project with housing, offices and commercial uses including a grocery and restaurants on 61 acres of the former Raemish Farm property that’s bounded by Packers and North Sherman avenues between the Tennyson Ridge and Whitetail Ridge neighborhoods.

The Plan Commission is expected to consider the preliminary plat and zoning for the Rifkin project on July 27, with City Council review on Aug. 4.

The city does not see as many residential development proposals on the North Side as the East and West sides because there is less developable vacant land between the Yahara River and interstate, mostly due to natural features including Cherokee Marsh, city planner Tim Parks said.

Although the city has had a plan for development of some of the land near Cherokee Country Club since 2007, a lot of the land has since been purchased as public open space, including land north of the Cherokee clubhouse and directly north of the Annex Group site across Wheeler Road, Parks said.

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The Annex Group site and the Raemisch property just to the south represent the largest remaining development parcels in the area, Parks said. Both have had plans for how they should develop for about 15 years, and it is coincidence that they both have come in at roughly the same time, he said.

The Annex Group will be applying for Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority tax credits, but no city or county funds, Huggins said. The developer was initially targeting units affordable to those making up to 60% the Dane County median income, or $43,680 for a family of three, but after recent discussions with WHEDA, it will be targeting a range, primarily 50% to 70% of median income, with the possibility of some units at 30%, or about $21,850 for a family of three, she said.

The final income range is a work in progress, she said.

The housing would be served by a mix of surface and underground garage parking. The site would get improved vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle connections; community spaces including a playground, community gardens and a community center with computer lab; gym and meeting space; connections to the local trail network and parks; and on-site bike storage.

The developer will partner with existing nonprofits to provide programming and support for residents, Huggins said.

Ald. Rebecca Kemble, 18th District, says she has concerns about stormwater drainage and traffic at the Annex Group site.

“This is a sloped site with a lot of impervious surfaces and there will be large volumes of runoff,” she said in an email. “The initial proposal had one massive stormwater retention pond at the southeast corner of the site. They’ve altered it to create three ponds now. It is not clear that all the water will be kept on site by these ponds.

“The traffic issue is also serious,” Kemble said. “If the main entrance to 315 units will be on Wheeler, this will worsen an already dangerous situation at the Wheeler/(Highway) CV intersection, especially during rush hours. Since the county owns and controls CV, the City cannot make changes to this or any other intersections.”

Kemble said the Annex Group has been listening.

“Throughout the process thus far the developers and architects have made adjustments where they could to address these issues, but I’m not sure they’ll be able to overcome these issues in full,” she said.

The Annex Group has hosted two online neighborhood meetings with a third scheduled for July 16. The developer will make an informal presentation to the city’s Urban Design Commission on Wednesday.

The 29.2 acres of farmland is at the corner of Packers Avenue and Wheeler Road.

The 29.2 acres of farmland is at the corner of Packers Avenue and Wheeler Road.

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