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Developers propose 10-story housing project near Monona Terrace in Madison
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Developers propose 10-story housing project near Monona Terrace in Madison

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Developers are proposing to raze seven buildings near Monona Terrace for a 10-story housing project with a parking garage. But like many projects Downtown, the concept is also raising concerns about the impact on historic preservation, housing affordability and traffic.

Apex Real Estate and Walter Wayne Development are proposing to redevelop rental properties at 145, 147, 149 and 151 W. Wilson St. and 309, 313, 315 and 321 S. Henry St. for the new construction, which would create about 200 apartment units and 240 enclosed parking stalls.

The project would transform an older, low-profile segment of the Lake Monona skyline. The site is less than 500 feet from the convention center and across the street from the Dane County Courthouse. 

"There is a need for more central-city housing," Apex chairman Bruce Bosben said, adding that the project would provide housing, greater density, handicap accessibility, energy efficiency, increased property tax revenue and reduced commuter traffic.

The neighborhood and city would help define the architecture, Bosben said.

"It clearly is a great location," said Downtown Ald. Mike Verveer, 4th District. "It's one that's been eyed by developers over the years. It's a place that can support significant density. I don't think height will likely be a stumbling block. The design progression has been good but needs to progress further."

The developers have been working with a neighborhood steering committee this fall. A new design concept was well-received by the steering committee at a meeting with the development team on Thursday night, said Jonathan Cooper, chair of the Bassett District of Capitol Neighborhoods Inc.

"The proposal is getting a generally positive, first-blush reception," Cooper said, adding, "there are many details to be considered."

It's Bosben's second attempt to redevelop the site.

About a decade ago, Apex had proposed a $100 million, 14-story, 450,000-square-foot building with a 300-room full-service hotel, up to 60 housing units, two restaurants, a grocery store and 550 mostly underground parking spaces for the same site.

But Apex was unable to secure all properties needed and the proposal, made amid a number of ambitious offerings for Downtown hotels and during the bite of the Great Recession, never moved forward.

The new proposal features a one-story base topped by a nine-story tower. 

The latest design concept retains the same number of apartments and height but reduces the size of the building by 20,000 square feet and turns the apartment tower 45 degrees on its podium, which opens up more outdoor green space at the second-story podium roof level and increases lake views for the living units, Cooper said.

The design also creates an outdoor plaza/patio area at the entrance of the building, something that had been suggested by the neighborhood at an earlier meeting, he said. It is anticipated this area will also provide seating space for a possible cafe located next to the first-floor lobby, he said.

Currently, the project would offer market-rate units, but Capitol Neighborhoods Inc. and Verveer are interested in a mix of units, and the development team is exploring partnerships to provide low-cost housing, Bosben said.

Madison Youth Arts Center under construction at the corner of Mifflin and Ingersoll Streets

Most of the existing buildings are older and speak to the wave of development Downtown a century ago, city preservation planner Heather Bailey said.

The 1998 Downtown Preservation Plan identified the structure at 151-153 W. Wilson St. as the most intact and architecturally significant example of the two-unit and three-unit residences popular at the turn of the previous century, Bailey said. The building was constructed in 1911 in the late Queen Anne style and owned by former Mayor George Sayle as an investment property. The type of house is increasingly rare, she said.

The Madison Trust for Historic Preservation submitted a landmark nomination for the property in 2009 but withdrew the application at the request of the property owner, Bailey said.

The development team has hired a local historic preservation expert to evaluate the existing properties, Bosben said. All demolitions in the city go to the Landmarks Commission for their recommendation, Bailey said.

Some are worried about the impact on traffic. The intersection at Wilson, Hamilton and Henry streets is already problematic with the dead-ends on both Hamilton and Henry, and the steering committee has expressed concern about increased traffic, especially through a garage entrance and exit on South Henry Street, Cooper said. Verveer said he's interested in plans for deliveries, moving and refuse collection. 

After a formal submission is made, the project would need city approvals for the demolitions and a conditional use, city planner Sydney Prusak said.

If approvals are secured, construction could begin in September 2021 and be completed two years later, Bosben said.

PHOTOS: MADISON YOUTH ARTS CENTER

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