Continuing an upscale student housing boom, a developer is proposing a seven-story, 124-unit tower with a rooftop swimming pool amid the fraternities and sororities that line historic Langdon Street.
But the proposal is raising questions about how the building’s modern architecture fits on the street, parking and security.
Core Spaces, based in Austin, Texas, and Chicago, is proposing the new Hub II housing on the site of The Langdon Apartments, a massive, seven-story cream and brown brick structure that sat vacant at 126 Langdon St. for a decade before it was demolished this summer.
The Hub II would be Core Spaces’ third big student housing project in Madison, following The Hub, a 313-unit mixed-use project at 437 N. Frances St. that opened in 2015, and The James, a 366-unit mixed-use project that opened at 432 W. Gorham St. in 2017.
The new building would have five stories along Langdon Street and step up to seven stories in the deep, narrow lot, preliminary plans submitted to the city show. The 124 units would offer more than 300 beds with the swimming pool and other amenities on the fifth floor rooftop. There would be 20 underground parking spaces.
The Downtown Height Map allows five stories at the site with up to two more stories as a conditional use if it meets conditions including compatibility with the surrounding area, if the extra height brings a higher quality building, and if it compliments the setting of adjacent landmarks.
Core Spaces made an informational presentation to the city’s Urban Design Commission last week.
Commission chairman Cliff Goodhart, speaking for himself and not the group, said the developer is trying to integrate the building’s mass and scale into the neighborhood.
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“However the amount of metal panel siding as proposed seems foreign to this block of Langdon,” Goodhart said in an email. “Also, with regard to the three-part design of the street elevation, only the eastern third seems in keeping with the character of that part of the street.”
He said the developer was reminded about the requirements that must be met for approval of a conditional use permit for additional height.
The developer and local representative did not respond to phone and email messages.
Ald. Patrick Heck, 2nd District, who represents the site, sits on the city’s Plan Commission and has not taken a position on the project.
But Heck said he has heard concerns from neighbors about the contemporary architecture not fitting in with the classic character and scale of Langdon Street, a lack of off-street parking, the rooftop swimming pool and the reputation of the developer related to police calls and security.
Core Spaces, he said, will likely need significant security and safety plans for the building and any outdoor recreation spaces, and those and other concerns will need to be negotiated with a neighborhood steering committee.
The previous building was built in 1963 as a private men’s dorm during a period of enrollment expansion at the university. Steve Brown Apartments acquired the building and operated it as a private residence hall from 1991 to 2004, and sold it to a Texas company that continued the same use until 2008, when Steve Brown Apartments reacquired it.
The building, built with a cafeteria and some common areas, but not full amenities in units, was closed that year because there wasn’t enough student demand for the units, and it never reopened.
In 2015, a different developer from Austin, Texas, shared preliminary concepts for a seven-story structure with 69 apartments, 301 beds and 57 parking stalls, some underground and some at the surface. It would have had a fitness center, study room, game room and other amenities, but not the rooftop hot tubs and swimming pools seen in some glitzy new student housing. The project never materialized.
There had been two other proposals for the property since 2008, one that would demolish the building and one that would update the existing structure, but both plans fell through.