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Developer proposes another big housing project for booming East Washington Avenue

Developer proposes another big housing project for booming East Washington Avenue

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East Washington Avenue redevelopment site

LZ Ventures' proposed 10-story housing project would take the place of a Klinke Cleaners, in foreground, and several other nearby buildings.

The remake of East Washington Avenue into a housing, commercial, and food and entertainment destination continues, with the latest offering closer to Capitol Square.

LZ Ventures is proposing to demolish a series of buildings on the 400 block of East Washington Avenue plus three houses on North Hancock and North Franklin streets for a 10-story apartment building with 160 units, commercial space and underground parking, preliminary documents submitted to the city show.

The proposed building would rise to 10 stories facing East Washington Avenue and drop to eight stories at the rear of the site, the back side appearing as two towers connected by a one-story structure, the documents show. The ground and first floors would provide a total 4,112 square feet of commercial space with a rooftop deck atop the first floor at the rear of the building, and a community room, swimming pool and game room on the ninth floor. 

The timing of the project is unclear. LZ Ventures' principals, who could not be reached for comment, are set to have a preliminary meeting with city Planning Division staff this week.

Near East Side Alds. Patrick Heck, 2nd District, and Marsha Rummel, 6th District, have scheduled a neighborhood meeting for 6 p.m. Jan. 30 at St. John's Lutheran Church, 322 E. Washington Ave.

Typically, a formal land use application would follow those meetings.

"Increasing the city's supply of market-rate apartments is one approach to addressing our lack of housing, particularly in highly desirable areas such as the Isthmus," said Heck, who represents the site. "This proposal could help out in that regard. But on the other hand, there is concern about the proposed demolition of several architecturally significant and/or historic homes as well as the potential loss of several multi-flat homes that are currently quite affordable."

Rummel said she hasn't seen plans. She said she understands the need for more apartments but wants to know more about the demolitions.

"I'm always concerned about throwing away old buildings with history," she said. "I'd like to know the condition of the buildings, if they are salvageable and repairable." 

Proposed apartment building

If advanced, the proposal would continue a remarkable transformation of the corridor begun about 15 years ago.

The revitalization saw a spark in 2004 when developer Curt Brink and the Korb family transformed the old Buy and Sell Shop, 701 E. Washington Ave., into a trendy entertainment venue that now features the High Noon Saloon, Brass Ring restaurant and pool hall, and the Brink Lounge.

The city and property owners made moves to lay the groundwork for a bigger, bolder renaissance, including the creation of a tax increment financing district in 2005. The city also spent $5.56 million to buy 7.8 acres on the 700 and 800 blocks in 2010.

Otto Gebhardt opened the 12-story Constellation building with 220 apartments and commercial space in 2013, and now the street is lined with high-rise buildings offering housing, commercial space and more -- even a new music venue, the 2,500-capacity Sylvee, which opened in late 2018.

Since November alone:

The city must be cautious as it considers the LZ Ventures proposal, which pushes redevelopment toward the state Capitol, Heck said.

"If this proposal moves forward it has the potential to set the tone for the portions of East Washington Avenue that are closer to the Square than where most redevelopment has so far occurred, so it should be evaluated very carefully," he said.


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