Second public meeting set for today as project bumps against neighborhood plan, historic ordinances
Another proposed mixed-used development at 906 Williamson Street is facing some opposition from the neighborhood and the City Of Madison Landmarks Commission over it’s height, low percentage of affordable housing, green space and demolition of a 4-bedroom single family home currently on the site.
Earlier this year Louis Fortis, who owns the Gateway Mall, proposed to demolish the current home and build a four-story mixed used building with 26 apartment units, underground parking, retail space on the first floor along Willy, indoor and outdoor bike parking, rooftop patio and green roof.
In the interim, Knoth-Bruce Architects has been working with Marquette Neighborhood Association to earn it’s endorsement since they feel it will be very helpful in their petition before Landmarks which says the design is okay, with somewhat minor changes, but they are leery about approving the demolition. MNA wants to see a shorter building, more affordable housing and the current home preserved.
Today at 7:15 p.m. at Luke House, District Six Alder Marsha Rummel will hold a second public meeting about the project which Knothe-Bruce officials will attend and answer questions.
Rummel is also a member of the Landmarks Commission.
The development would require two conditional use permits for the Traditional Shopping Street (TSS) zoning district in which the project would reside.
One conditional use variance would be for a floor area greater than 25,000 square feet, the other is a building height over forty feet.
The building height would also run afoul of the Better Urban Infill Development (BUILD) II plan which serves as a guideline for City committees to follow when considering project approvals. City committees tend to defer to a neighborhood’s wishes.
Within MNA there is a battle over how strict adherence to the plan should be. BUILD II is not a legal requirement but it does provide design criteria for Willy Street buildings broken down into zones. 906 Williamson is in Zone II which maxes out at three stories. However a project can earn a bonus story it if fulfills other criteria.
906 Williamson could earn that extra story if enough affordable housing was added, preserved structures or increased structured parking. J. Randy Bruce of Knothe-Bruce, who presented the project changes to the MNA Board last week said that two of the 26 units would be offered as affordable housing with possibly Fortis himself underwriting the cost of those two units.
“We’re trying very hard to draft a development that has enough components that’ll be successful. we’re trying to do something that reaches out to the needs of the community.
At this time Louis (Fortis) is not going to commit to more than two (units), we think we can get the two to be financially feasible and workable,” Bruce said.
The project could also get there with an extra level of structured parking but that would mean going deeper into the ground and may be cost prohibitive. Which leaves preservation. It seems that a majority of people both in MNA and on Landmarks are opposed to demolishing the current home on the site which is valued by the City at $284,700.
A Landmark’s Commission staff report (published in April) had recommended that the demolition permit be denied, not due to any specific historic value, but it’s design contributes to the general historic nature of the Third Lake Ridge historic district. Under that standard the Commission would prefer it be repaired and preserved.
MNA Board member John Coleman, who has been a staunch defender of the BUILD II plan said at the Board meeting while he isn’t interested in requiring a costly extra level of parking to earn the fourth story, he says there are other options.
“One is affordable housing, the other is preservation”, Coleman said to Bruce in reference to the BUILD II Plan. “I think it’s very clear you don’t have a fourth story based on structured parking.”
Coleman also reported that there was clear opposition to the house demolition by Landmarks Committee members at their April 27 meeting. MNA Preservation & Development Committee Chair Jesse Pycha-Holst noted that BUILD II is a set of guidelines and it is up to the neighborhood and it’s leaders to interpret them.
“I like this project. I like a lot of the work and the changes they (Knothe-Bruce) have put into it over the now nine meetings we have had about it,” Pycha-Holst said. ” We talk about wanting walkable neighborhoods. If these 50 or 70 people don’t move in here they are going to move out to East Towne mall. Do we want 50 to 70 people driving 20 minutes to work each way or would we rather have them where they could bike to work potentially.”
In response to earlier MNA input, Knothe-Bruce made some changes to the project including: Adding setbacks and stepbacks on Paterson Street and the rear top floor, reduced the patio size, added street trees and landscaping, added building facade articulation on Willy and Paterson and added commercial level glazing.
Related: Demolition By Neglect
Related: Landmarks Denies Demolition Permit for 906 Willy
Related: Four-Story Building Proposed at Willy and Paterson Streets
Related: 1018 Williamson Demolition Delayed
Related: Greenspace Possibly Returning to Willy Street
I think that something like this would be a great improvement for the neighborhood. Perhaps it is time to reassess the willy st neighborhood plan to allow even taller bulidings in willy st and make the neighborhood more friendly to people willing to risk money into further developing willy st and streets north to east washington.
I agree with the previous poster, but I want to add that without adding more market rate units to the neighborhood, existing moderate and low income renters will get squeezed out. Most of the rental stock in the hood is owned by mom and pop landlords, who will be selling soon as they start to retire and pass away. These homes will be converted to single family, or purchased at the current premium, renovated, and “retenanted,” which is industry code for bringing in more affluent renters. Keeping housing affordable requires adding supply, and adding supply quickly. Don’t kill this like the apartments on the 700 block of Willy.
Also, the water table is literally like 5 feet below grade in most of the isthmus not on a hill, so digging down for structured parking is not economically feasible.