After months of negotiating with Gebhardt Development on the Judge Doyle Square project, the Madison City Council decided Tuesday to switch to a developer that will provide fewer affordable housing units, but a more feasible construction design.
On a near unanimous vote, the council picked Stone House Development — which the city’s negotiating team had initially recommended — to build an apartment complex above the soon-to-be-completed parking garage on the Madison Municipal Building block.
Gebhardt had proposed around 80 affordable housing units, while Stone House proposed around 40, with around half being just as affordable as Gebhardt and half being less affordable.
Ald. Mike Verveer, 4th District, said while he wanted as many affordable units as possible Downtown, it was time for the city to go with the “more practical” proposal after continued complications with Gebhardt.
Last week in a closed session, the Finance Committee recommended the city terminate negotiations with Gebhardt, which it had originally chosen to develop the block, after concerns over construction challenges.
Gebhardt had initially planned to construct the building using an engineered wood frame, but that building technique is not yet allowed under state law. Gebhardt proposed using steel and concrete instead, but that would require costly modifications to the base of the building to support the weight.
Richard Arnesen, vice president of Stone House Development, said his company’s proposal would not require any modifications to the base of the building, which contains the parking garage and is known as the podium.
“We’re at a time that we really need a straightforward development process,” said Ald. Rebecca Kemble, 18th District.
Verveer said another factor that was considered when terminating negotiations with Gebhardt was that the developer planned to segregate the affordable housing units from the regular priced units.
Gebhardt had initially proposed setting aside 78 of 196 apartments for households with incomes at or below 60% of the county median income, or $49,560 for a family of three.
In comparison, Stone House proposed a plan for 159 apartments, with 20 being for renters with household incomes at or below 60% of county medium income, and 17 for those with household incomes at or below 80% of county median income, or $66,030 for a family of three.
The council also approved an amended proposal for the other block of Judge Doyle Square, where Beitler Real Estate of Chicago is developing a hotel.
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Heather Stouder, city planning division director, said the changes are “minor” and include removing a floor of parking from the building. Around 40 parking stalls will be moved across the street.
Further delay on Edgewood vote
The council also voted to further delay a decision on whether to repeal Edgewood High School’s master plan, which the city has said prohibits the school from hosting games on its athletic field.
Edgewood requested to repeal its master plan in July, but at an Aug. 26 meeting, the city Plan Commission voted to delay a vote on that request for three weeks. On that timeline, the master plan vote would have been taken up on the Sept. 16 Plan Commission meeting and the Oct. 1 city council meeting.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the city council voted 15-4 to delay the master plan vote for more than a month to the Oct. 14 Plan Commission meeting and Oct. 15 City Council meeting.
Ald. Shiva Bidar, 5th District, said the reason for the delay was to allow another proposal to get through the Plan Commission and City Council first. That proposal would require Edgewood High School to apply with the city before making modifications, such as adding lights or a sound system, to its field if the master plan is repealed.
City Council members who serve on the Plan Commission said they would like to know what the council decides on the field modification measure before voting on the master plan repeal. The council voted to keep that proposal on the earlier, Sept. 16 and Oct. 1 timeline.
Funds for Hmong elders approved
In other business, the council, allocated $47,900 in 2019 and $115,000 in 2020 to Freedom Inc. and the Hmong Institute to support programming for South East Asian seniors, including mental health treatment, housing, social activities and other services.
The funds were split evenly between the organizations because some Hmong elders had stronger ties to Freedom Inc., others to the Hmong Institute, and city council members wanted to support all elders.
[Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect a correction. An earlier version misstated the vote to select Stone House Development to develop part of the project. The voice vote was near unanimous.]