Amid continuing demand for housing, a developer is proposing to demolish a two-story gas station, convenience store and office building for a five-story mixed-use project with 51 apartments on West Washington Avenue south of the state Capitol.
The site once held the historic Hotel Washington and its renowned Club de Wash, which was destroyed by fire in 1996.
Greenway Real Estate is proposing to demolish Kelley’s Market and the Mobil gas station at 636 W. Washington Ave., built in 1999, for the five-story building, called “West Washington Place,” with commercial space on the first floor and 51 apartments above.
The initial concepts show a primarily brick building with cast stone and metal canopy accents, rooftop decks and patios and two levels of underground parking.
“The current building is two decades old and coming to a time of reinvestment, so it became a time to see if something fit the site better,” said Gary Schmerler, speaking for Greenway.
The initial concepts are preliminary, Schmerler said, adding, “We haven’t refined the interior and we haven’t refined the exterior.”
“At first glance, I think it is a very good land use,” said Ald. Mike Verveer, whose 4th District includes the site. “Clearly, there’s a strong apartment market Downtown. The West Washington Avenue area is a very desirable place to live.”
The site abuts two landmark buildings — the Wiendenbeck Building, 619 W. Mifflin St., and the former Milwaukee Road Rail Station, 640 W. Washington Ave.
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But the property is best known for the Hotel Washington, which included two bars frequented by members of Madison’s gay and lesbian community. Along with the 22-room hotel, including 10 rooms for low-income permanent residents, the building was home to the Club de Wash, the Barber’s Closet, the New Bar, Rod’s, Cafe Palms, Cafe Espresso, Micro Bar, Speed Print and the Barber’s Closet Salon.
Hopes to rebuild the hotel were dashed after numerous setbacks and increasing costs just shy of the one-year anniversary of the fire.
The gas station and convenience store, which replaced the hotel and a smaller gas station, opened in 1999. The land and building are now valued at $1.7 million, according to the city assessor’s office.
The city’s Landmarks Commission was to consider the proposal on Monday, but Greenway sought a future meeting date so it can first share the project concepts with the neighborhood. The developer could amend the proposal after hearing from residents.
“We want to make sure the neighborhood gives us feedback,” Schmerler said.
The Mifflin District of Capitol Neighborhoods Inc. will hear a presentation on Aug. 7, and Verveer will host a neighborhood meeting on Aug. 26.
“The architecture, I believe, will be very important in this key gateway to Downtown,” Verveer said.
Eventually, the Landmarks Commission will make a referral comment to the Plan Commission on whether the proposed new construction is overly large or intrusive to the adjacent landmark properties. The Urban Design Commission will also review the project.
[Editor's note: This story and a photo caption have been updated to correct the spelling of Kelley's Market.]