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Massive development eyed for Hill Farms property on Madison's West Side
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Massive development eyed for Hill Farms property on Madison's West Side

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Hill Farms development

A conceptual rendering of the proposed private redevelopment at Hill Farms as seen from the corner of University Avenue and North Segoe Road. The corner would feature a hotel.

Developers are refining plans for a massive project with a hotel, housing, office and retail space next to the towering new state office building and parking garage at Hill Farms on Madison’s West Side.

The ambitious private development could be among the most expensive in city history, with a combined private and public investment totaling hundreds of millions of dollars.

Smith Gilbane, which is now completing a $150 million, nine-story, 600,000-square-foot office building and $36 million parking garage for the state on the western side of the Hill Farms site, bought the remaining 13.9 acres at that location and another 4.4 acres on the city’s South Side from the state for $13 million in 2015.

The developer has shared conceptual plans with the city Planning Division for the private portion of the Hill Farms property. They show the creation of what amounts to a mini-neighborhood with four new interior streets on the property, which is bordered by University Avenue, North Segoe Road and Sheboygan Avenue.

The preliminary concept shows:

  • A 145,700-square-foot hotel tower;
  • 300 to 350 housing units;
  • 225,000 square feet of office space;
  • 152,370 square feet of medical office space;
  • 26,800 square feet of restaurant space;
  • 128,050 square feet of retail space; and,
  • A parking garage with 2,800 spaces and 70 surface spaces.

The early plans shared with the city do not list specific building heights, but drawings suggest some structures, including the hotel and offices, could be around 10 stories, with lower heights along some lot lines. The drawings also include some lower-scale structures.

The tree-lined interior streets would offer retail space and outdoor seating.

It’s unclear how much the plans will evolve before a formal submission is made to the city. A spokesman for Smith Gilbane could not be reached for comment.

“The concept presented would be a transformative mixed-use development,” said city planner Kevin Firchow. “We look forward to seeing more detail and continuing to work with the development team and all the stakeholders as plans are developed.”

Ald. Arvina Martin, 11th District, who represents the area, said, “I’m excited to see how it evolves after more conversations.”

The proposed development is located along a possible bus rapid transit route, Firchow said. The City’s 2006 Comprehensive Plan recommends employment uses for the site, and the current concept includes a significant office and medical office component, he said. With its mix of housing, retail and restaurants, the project could serve both employees and residents alike, he said.

It’s unclear if the site, which is just west of the expanding Hilldale Shopping Center and a Target store, would require a zoning change, Firchow said.

The site is now zoned “suburban employment,” which generally allows the types of uses anticipated, he said. But the city has not received detailed information to determine whether the project would comply with the underlying zoning, he said.

Any heights above five stories would require conditional use approval from the Plan Commission, he said.

City planner Tim Parks said a formal application and development plans for the Hill Farms project could come in the late summer or early fall.

After it’s vacated, the state will demolish the 378,000-square-foot, roughly 60-year-old Hill Farms state office building that housed the Department of Transportation headquarters before it was replaced.

The new state office building, which will open in 2018, will deliver customers within walking distance of commercial spaces in the private development.

The state building will house DOT and the departments of Employee Trust Funds, Safety and Professional Services, and Financial Institutions; the Department of Administration’s hearings and appeals and facilities management divisions; the Public Service Commission; the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission; the Higher Educational Aids Board; and the Educational Approval Board.

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