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City Council rejects move to preserve lake view from Downtown Frank Lloyd Wright house
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MADISON CITY COUNCIL

City Council rejects move to preserve lake view from Downtown Frank Lloyd Wright house

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The Madison City Council rejected Tuesday an attempt to preserve the narrow view of Lake Mendota from a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house in Downtown by limiting how tall properties near the landmark home could be developed.

The council voted 14-4 against amending the city’s Downtown height map to reduce the allowable height on adjacent properties to the Lamp House — a three-story home barely visible to the public that was built in 1903 for a friend of the famed architect.

The Lamp House sits in the middle of the block bounded by North Butler, East Mifflin and North Webster streets and East Washington Avenue. Passersby can only catch glimpses of the home through narrow driveways and between other structures encircling it.

Ald. Patrick Heck, 2nd District, sponsored the proposed changes, which were based on the recommendations of a 2014 special committee exploring development on and around the Lamp House block. The changes would have dropped the allowable height on adjacent properties on East Mifflin and North Butler streets from six or eight stories to three stories.

Apex Property Management, which has owned Lamp House since 2005 and rents it out for student housing, opposed the changes. Bruce Bosben, chair of Apex, said the company is in talks with the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy about the fate of the Lamp House, including whether it could be relocated.

Bosben argued reducing the allowable height in the area could hamstring future development Apex is considering for the Lamp House block, where it also owns four two- and three-story properties.

Ald. Juliana Bennett, 8th District, which covers the UW-Madison campus, said her residents are more concerned about affordable housing in the Downtown area than the view from one building.

“It seriously boggles my mind we’re discussing preserving the view of the Lamp House,” she said.

Wright designed the originally two-story house for his lifelong friend Robert Lamp, which had vistas of both lakes and the state Capitol upon construction more than 100 years ago. A third-floor penthouse was added in 1913, and it’s the only place where a narrow view of Lake Mendota remains after decades of surrounding development.

Alds. Brian Benford, Lindsay Lemmer and Mike Verveer joined Heck in the unsuccessful attempt to pass the height map changes.

Other action

Also Tuesday, the City Council signed off on zoning changes for the Zor Shriners to raze the fraternal organization’s temple on the Far West Side and make room for a housing proposal with 479 units.

The proposal from St. Louis Park, Minnesota-based Saturday Properties would split the housing units between two five-story buildings. There would be 247 underground parking spaces, plus 255 surface stalls. A portion of the 8.9-acre site, which is near the Beltline just west of West Towne Mall, would be set aside for the potential development of an office building.

Next year, city employees will receive a paid holiday on Juneteenth after the council approved Tuesday adding June 19 — the day commemorating the end of slavery in the United States — to its list of official holidays. As part of the action, the council also renamed the day after Thanksgiving as Ho-Chunk Day.

Congress recognized Juneteenth as a federal holiday last month.

Know Your Madisonian 2021: Profiles from the Wisconsin State Journal's weekly series

They're your neighbors, co-workers or friends you may not have met yet. And they all have a story to tell.

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Lessner started out in the laundromat business when he was about 10 years old helping his dad.

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Rowan Childs, 44, wanted to fill her home with books for her own children to enjoy but knew not all children are able to have the same experience. 

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“I did find my passion," says Sally Zirbel-Donisch, "... it was working with not only students and families but staff and partners in the community."

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In 1992, Kathy Kuntz enrolled in UW-Madison, expecting to earn a PhD in history, but it was a temp job as a receptionist at a nonprofit that led her into what would become a career in energy.

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Michael Graf has written five screenplays: "Winter of Frozen Dreams," "The Last Indian War," "Throwing Hammers," "Venice of America" and "Picket Charlie," a just-finished environmental action picture tackling climate change.

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A poll worker and volunteer interviewer for the Fire Department, Pranee Sheskey says she enjoys being part of making democracy work.

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John Adams and Michael Moody founded the nonprofit Catalyst for Change in January 2020 to eliminate human suffering one life at a time by placing human dignity and development at the forefront of poverty, addiction and homelessness.

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Harambee Village Doulas is trying to improve infant mortality, maternal health.

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Tiffany Olson owns 120 plants, a Willy Street greenhouse store and a loving Havanese named Mia.

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Matt Reetz has spent years studying birds, doing postdoctoral research around the United States, Australia, the Caribbean and southern Chile.

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Since 1962, the McCann family name led efforts to make sure Hilldale shopping center is clean and safe. Now Tom McCann has retired to fish, hunt turkeys and catch Dungeness crabs.

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Tony Gomez-Phillips' prairie-inspired planting connects Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture with a garden style that embodies his views of nature and how it interacts with humans.

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Out Health, run by Dr. Kathy Oriel, is in a former dentist's office on University Avenue.

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Ken Fager turned pandemic boredom into a popular public art campaign of 3D-printed miniature state Capitols placed throughout Downtown.

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