Greenspace Possibly Returning to Willy Street

Neighborhood examines dearth of open space and benefits of demolition

1018 Williamson  may be demolished and turned into greenspace.

1018 Williamson may be demolished and turned into greenspace.

Petinary owner Dr. Mike Kohn has has applied for a demolition permit for 1018 Williamson Street, a circa 1895  home that has not been occupied since he purchased it in 1992. The application will be discussed at the Marquette Neighborhood Association Preservation & Development meeting Tuesday September 9 at 5:30 p.m.

In the application, Jim Glueck, of Glueck Architects who represents Kohn, outlined several seemingly fatal flaws with the building that render it unusable an impractical for restoration. Glueck noted in the application and also confirmed to Willy Street Blog that the site will be restored to greenspace with no further plans to develop.


Only the front steps remain to show a house once stood at 935 Williamson . The lot has been vacant since approximately 1965.

Density, demolition and greenspace has been a contentious topic up and down the street lately as neighbors and the city wrangle over the scope of developments.

Earlier this year there was some objection to the repurposing of 1380 Williamson from residential to commercial. That project is still underway in similar but not the original form.

In the last 40 years on Willy there has been only a few parcels of greenspace, the most prominent being the Willy Street Park which was rescued from hosting a Taco Johns in the early 1980s.

The most enduring is the vacant lot between 937 and 933 Williamson, owned by Richard and Judith Guyot. Richard says that a house stood on that spot until approximately 1965. He said that the foundation is still in the ground but filled-in with dirt.


The Willy Street Park emerged through a community effort after almost becoming a Taco Johns.

Up until early in the last decade there was some greenspace on the south side of the 1000 block of Willy between Nature’s Bakery (Willis W. Blossom Commercial Building & Residence) and the Mills Brothers Building at Ingersoll that currently houses Tellurian UCAN, Inc.

At that time there was an empty lot next to the Mills building and some of the houses east of there had a fair bit of elbow room.

In 2002 three homes (1037, 1043 and 1045 Williamson) were demolished to make way for the Third Lake Ridge development.

Editor’s note: A viewing of the property will be available Tuesday September 9 from 4:30 to 5 p.m.

Restoration and infill

In the 700 block of Williamson as the neighborhood and developers try to agree on a way to find a better use for the large parking lot between the Olds Building and Ground Zero Coffee; across the street Renaissance Property Group Owner Michael Matty has been quietly working on plans to fill-in some more greenspace.


The proposed building at 739 Williamson. The elevator shaft is in dark grey.

The historic Ott house at 740 Jenifer Street is in need of restoration and includes a large rear yard that terminates at Willy Street. Matty proposes to embark on restoration work on the house and also build a contemporary 4-story 12-unit apartment building where the yard is now with the majority of the architectural features facing Williamson.

Matty has been working on this project for a while and has had to revise the plans after a first pass in front of the Urban Design Commission earlier this year. At that meeting he was told his initial plans were “boring” and “too much like Fitchburg” and that Lindsey Lee’s house next door (731 WIlliamson) had set the bar for urban contemporary design in this area.


The Ott house at 740 Jenifer Street.

In debuting the redesign to the MNA Board Meeting in July he said, “We got a little bold, a little creative.” The new building is really two halves joined together by an elevator shaft which will create a flat wall on Williamson.

Matty says eventually vines will grow on the side of the building but decorative cables will fill the void until nature can complete the project.

In presenting to MNA, Matty says that most developers assemble lots and ask a municipality to combine them, however his request will be to split the lots which means the apartment building will be rezoned as Planned Development (PD) and have the address 739 Williamson. Matty was seeking support from MNA for the lot split and the overall project.

As part of the project, Matty will restore the Ott house and seek permission from the Landmarks Commission to demolish a portion of the house that was built as an addition as well as an outbuilding on the property. The restored house will become a 3-bedroom 2-1/2 bath single family home that Matty will put on the market.


The addition at the rear of the Ott house and the out building would be demolished if approved.

P&D recommended to the Board that they issue a letter of support for the project, which the Board approved unanimously with no abstentions. In addition the Greater Williamson Area Business Association (GWABA) also issued a letter of support.

While the neighborhood seems to be onboard with the project it is facing headwinds from City of Madison planning staff.

District Six Alder Marsha Rummel reported to the neighborhood in a recent email that UDC approved the new building with the caveat that the elevator tower be moved further back from the street.

The planning staff were in support of the rezoning but still have panned the building design stating, “The rezoning is also not consistent with the map note applicable to this portion of the Marquette neighborhood in the Comprehensive Plan, which discourages new buildings that are out of scale and character with the existing housing stock in this area.” 

The Staff report recommended placing the building application “on file”. The Plan Commission will take up the matter at their September 22 meeting.


A view of the Ott house and backyard from Williamson Street.

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3 thoughts on “Greenspace Possibly Returning to Willy Street

  1. The part of Matty’s proposal, which is proposed to be built on the Willy Street side of the project, _cannot_ be numbered “74_0_ Williamson Street” as the buildings on the south side of Williamson Street are given _odd_ numbers; the house number for Matty’s new construction on Willy Street would have to be an _odd number_ between Lindsey Lee’s 731 house number and the house number of the next existing building to the east on Williamson Street. Regards, Laurie Wermter, Willy Street resident

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