Downtown Madison BID leader pumped about apartment building boom

Jul

by Mike Ivey

 

Mary Carbine, executive director of Madison’s Central Business Improvement District, scans the list of new apartment buildings coming downtown and can’t help but feel encouraged.

 

dozen projects are either under construction or in the planning stages, with the potential to add some 2,000 housing units within a 10-minute walk of the Capitol Square.

 

While UW-Madison students are certainly a piece of the target market, Carbine is most excited over the possibility of young professionals, empty-nesters and even families moving downtown.

 

“Downtown has been holding its own in terms of retail but what is so promising is this level of residential development,” she says.

Starting in the 1960s, downtown Madison watched stores close, either fleeing to the suburban shopping malls or shuttering altogether. For younger people or recent arrivals to the city, it’s hard to image the time when the Capitol Square was ringed with retail stores of all sizes and varieties.

To this day, downtown retailers continue to feel the pressures. For example, Yellow Jersey bicycle shop is leaving State Street after 40 years and moving to Columbia County where it will operate as an online-retailer.

But Carbine is hoping the influx of new residents will provide the density to spark interest among more retailers downtown, adding to the mix of bars and restaurants that keep the area vibrant once the office crowd heads home at 5 p.m. each day.

A long-time dream among many central city business people has been landing an anchor tenant — think Crate & Barrel or its downscaled cousin CB2 — that could spark a retail revival.

 

“Having a downtown-scale department store would be incredible,” says Carbine.

New apartment construction and retail strategy are just two topics on the agenda for the annual business meeting of the Central BID at 5 p.m. on Tuesday at the Hovde Building, 122 W. Washington Ave.

 

Launched in 1999, the BID assesses property owners in the State Street and Capitol Square area, using the money to pay for the downtown Ambassador Program, street plantings, holiday lighting and marketing, along with two full-time staffers. It collected $265,439 in 2012 from about 220 property owners and serves about 355 businesses.

 

In addition, the BID raised another $91,561 through sponsorship and map advertising revenue.

Mary Carbine is executive director of the Madison Central Business Improvement District, which works to market Downtown and funds enhancements such as plants and holiday lights as well as the ambassador program.

“We use this meeting so we can tell people what we did with their money,” says Carbine, former director of the Wisconsin Film Festival who has headed the Central BID since 2005.

 

One of the most pressing issues for many downtown businesses, especially bar and restaurant owners, is the city’s proposed new Alcohol Density License Ordinance (ALDO). It is designed to provide a simplified process for determining where and who gets liquor licenses to operate downtown.

Greg Frank of the Food Fight restaurant group is heading a BID subcommittee that has been assessing the proposed new ordinance and what impact it might have.

 

“Personally, I am encouraged by the thoughtful effort that has been put into this proposal by city staff, and their willingness to adapt and make changes in order to make this a positive ordinance for the development of downtown Madison,” he writes in an email.

 

But Frank says those with existing liquor licenses are concerned about the new plan, including the inability to pass along a license when a business is sold.

 

“This is their retirement and taking that away is a huge negative impact,” he says. “Instead of that, make sure that the bad actors are weeded out by enforcement efforts. It is unfortunate that this ALDO is in place because of a few establishments. The vast majority of bars and restaurants serve responsibly and make sure that the patrons are responsible, too.”

 

One thing that has Carbine encouraged is the lack of controversy over the BID itself. When first proposed, some business owners balked at the idea, calling it simply another layer of taxation.

 

“That discussion hasn’t been as dynamic as it once was,” she says.

 

Despite a lot of hand-wringing that the BID would drive up rents and force smaller, locally-owned businesses out of downtown, that hasn’t been the case, Carbine says.

 

In fact, Carbine cites figures showing that 85 percent of businesses in the Central BID area are locally-owned. She says there is little evidence to show that downtown is losing its unique flavor as some have warned.

“We just haven’t seen it happen,” she says.

Urban Design Commission gives nod to "The Hub at Madison" development on State Street

J

by Teddy Nykiel 

 

The Urban Design Commission gave final approval with some conditions Wednesday for the "The Hub at Madison" -- a tall luxury housing and retail building proposed for the corner of State and Frances streets.

 

It was the third time the commission heard the proposal, which some fear won't mesh well with surrounding structures along Madison's beloved State Street.

 

The project is an almost 500,000-square-foot structure proposed by Core Campus Communities that would include retail spaces along State Street and a 12-story step-back with luxury apartment housing.

The commission's approval came with several conditions, including refining the facade on the corner of State and Frances, which calls for modern-looking steel elements.

 

The Chicago architecture firm, Antunovich Associates, made some design changes to the plan after hearing concerns from the UDC for a second timeearlier this month.

 

The most recent plans show an attempt to better integrate the Hub with the existing buildings on State Street. The facades of the retail spaces are designed with different heights and widths to add variety to the streetscape pedestrians would see when walking past the building on State.

 

"That was our intent -- to make it a little playful," said Joseph Antunovich, president of Antunovich Associates, during Wednesday’s presentation.

 

Antunovich said his company would like to see local retailers lease the State Street spaces. But, he added that none have yet expressed serious interest, since the plans haven't been approved and construction hasn't begun.

 

Constructing a high-rise near State Street worries residents who value the street's charm and unique character. Many fear it will cast large shadows, although developers maintain that it would cast no more of a shadow than the surrounding four-story buildings.

The most recent plans show an attempt to better integrate the Hub with the existing buildings on State Street. Credit:Core Campus

"This city 125% doesn't need something like that," Mardee Dapin, a Madison native, told the commission Wednesday. "That would be a travesty and it would wipe-out the character in Madison and in my hometown."

 

The Plan Commission heard the proposal on July 22 and unanimously recommended that the Common Council approve it at its Aug. 6 meeting.

 

If the Council approves the project, the UDC will review it one more time on Aug. 7 to go over the conditional design details.

 

View illustrations of the Hub proposal in the application to the Urban Design Commission.

From Bust to Boom: Rental Housing Takes Off in Madison

by Tanya Snyder

 

Madison, Wisconsin, is on a building binge. Developers are constructing so much rental housing that market observers fear that the housing shortage could quickly turn into a glut. One thousand units were approved last year for large apartment complexes.

 

There’s a reason behind all this building,according to an article in yesterday’s Isthmus: Young professionals, especially employees of the Madison-based software company Epic, are clamoring for downtown living and shunning the suburban development that characterized Madison-area building until recently.

With an eye toward Epic professionals, though, developers are almost exlusively building high-end apartments. Rents like $895 for a studio and $2,165 for a three-bedroom might sound like a bargain to our readers in New York, DC, and San Francisco, but in Madison, that’s a hefty chunk of change. Those prices risk forcing people to pay more than a third of their incomes on rent, which is ill-advised.

 

There’s an answer to that, says Nina Gruen, a market researcher and real estate strategist writing in the Urban Land Institute blog this week. All around the country, younger folks are flocking to rental housing — and not just the high-earning whiz kids. Their parents are finally kicking them out and they’re getting their own places (if they’re lucky, with the help of a little allowance Mom and Dad gave as a consolation prize). They prefer the vibrancy of the city to the sleepiness of the suburbs. They’re starting families later in life, so they’re happy with smaller digs.

 

“Since 2009, there has been a steady increase in multifamily construction,” Gruen writes, “climbing from 109,000 units in 2009 to 245,000 units in 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.” People under 30 are a primary market for those new urban units.

Madison is building 1,000 new rental units to satisfy the urban-living appetites of young professionals -- but experts warn they shouldn't ignore those who need affordable options. Photo: Gary Brink & Associates

There’s an answer to that, says Nina Gruen, a market researcher and real estate strategist writing in the Urban Land Institute blog this week. All around the country, younger folks are flocking to rental housing — and not just the high-earning whiz kids. Their parents are finally kicking them out and they’re getting their own places (if they’re lucky, with the help of a little allowance Mom and Dad gave as a consolation prize). They prefer the vibrancy of the city to the sleepiness of the suburbs. They’re starting families later in life, so they’re happy with smaller digs.

 

“Since 2009, there has been a steady increase in multifamily construction,” Gruen writes, “climbing from 109,000 units in 2009 to 245,000 units in 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.” People under 30 are a primary market for those new urban units.

 

And Gruen has some ideas for how to build for the kicked-out-of-their-parents’-basement subset of the millennial generation – which she dubs the “echo boomers” — as opposed to the well-heeled software professionals. She says they’re looking for small studios — as in, 250 square feet — or else they want to share a two-bedroom among three or four people. They don’t care so much about closet space but a fast internet connection is essential. They prefer flexible, open space to formal entertaining areas, and they’re happy to share party rooms, bike storage, and fitness facilities with other renters. And Gruen gets into details others gloss over: “Multifamily rentals that permit dogs ought to consider including outdoor dog washes in order to avoid clogged sinks from dog hair.”

 

The moral of the story is this: Whether we’re talking about software engineers or coffee slingers, young people want to live in cities. After years of housing shortages and skyrocketing rents, supply is finally beginning to catch up to demand.

Opponents appeal decision on Monroe Street development

July 13, 2013

by Mike Ivey

 

Opponents of a four-level, mixed-used development at the corner of Monroe and Knickerbocker streets are taking their case to the Madison City Council.

 

The city Plan Commission on Monday approved a proposal from landlord Fred Rouse to raze an old gas station and 100-year old bungalow to make room for a 21-unit apartment building with first floor retail space. Under the new city zoning code, no further approvals are needed.

 

But neighbors opposed to the project — which is one story and 4,000 square feet larger than what is recommended in adopted land use plans for the Monroe Street corridor — filed an appeal petition with the city on Friday.

 

The appeal means a conditional use permit granted for the project will get a public hearing before the full City Council at its Sept. 3 meeting, where it would take a two-thirds majority vote to overturn the action of the Plan Commission.

 

Project opponent David Maraniss, who owns a home adjacent to the development site, says the issue goes beyond just one single apartment building. He claims the city in its rush to spur more urban density is jeopardizing existing residential neighborhoods.

 

"We think we have reason and the city code on our side, and hope the full council gives us a fairer hearing than the Plan Commission did,” he said in an email. “The issues involving implementation of the new zoning code, the demolition of a residential house and the unbridled zeal for density at the expense of neighborhoods, are larger than our predicament at the corner of Monroe and Knickerbocker and deserve more civic debate.”

 

The approval Monday drew strong criticism from neighbors living near the project site, including some pointed jabs at former Monroe Street area alderman Ken Golden, who supported it.

For his part, developer Fred Rouse said in an email, "While we are disappointed that some residents have decided to prolong the approval process, we continue to believe this is a great project which will benefit the neighborhood, fulfill the city's plans and activate this corner of Monroe Street."

 

At least one City Council member appears opposed to the project. That would be downtown Ald. Ledell Zellers, who, as a member of the Plan Commission, cast the lone “no” vote in a 7-1 decision.

 

It is rare for the full Council to reverse the action of the Plan Commission, however. A review of newspaper archives dating to 1990 found a half-dozen situations where a development OK was appealed but not one where opponents of a project were able to muster the needed votes.

 

One particularly controversial case was the 1993 approval of the Rodney Scheel House for HIV/AIDS sufferers. Neighbors living near the Hauk Street location on Madison's east side appealed the Plan Commission OK but the approval was upheld by the City Council on a 19-0 vote.

Plans call for building a 21-unit apartment building at 2620 Monroe St., currently the site of Town & Country auto repair.  Neighbors opposed to the project are appealing its recent approval by the Plan Commission to the full City Council. A hearing is set for Sept. 3.

In 2010, the Council overturned a decision of the Landmarks Commission opposing construction of the new Edgewater Hotel. The developers appealed that decision to the full Council and won on a 14-4 vote. That was the first time a Landmarks ruling was overturned, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

 

The Edgewater later failed to get city-backed financing but was built nonetheless under a tax-free federal disaster bond financing arrangement.

 

Developer proposes hotel for John Nolen Drive

July 11, 2013

by Dean Mosiman

 

A development team is proposing a $6 million, 111-room hotel on John Nolen Drive, another significant project near Alliant Energy Center on Madison’s South Side.

 

The proposal comes as Dane County prepares to upgrade some facilities at the center and a special county committee begins to explore future possibilities for the sprawling complex.

 

The gateway area has long been eyed by the city as ripe for investment, but development has come in fits and starts.

 

Nolen Hotel Investment wants to build a four-story Holiday Inn Express and Suites hotel with 116 parking spaces on a vacant, 2.7-acre site at 610 John Nolen Drive.

“We’re looking at the overall hotel market,” developer Kevin Page said. “The site has great potential close to the Beltline, Downtown and Alliant Energy Center.”

 

The development team — including Kothe Real Estate Partners, Landgraf Construction, Great Lakes Management and Gary Brink & Associates — was scheduled to make an informational presentation Wednesday evening to the Urban Design Commission.

 

The hotel would be the third directly on the gateway, joining a 237-room Sheraton Madison and a 90-room Holiday Inn Express Madison, which would change to another operator when the new Holiday Inn opened.

“I think the plan is great. The design is fine,” said Ald. John Strasser, 14th District, who represents the area.

 

Other significant projects coming to the area include a long-planned $34.5 million, 201-room Crowne Plaza hotel soon to be built at 2155-2205 Rimrock Road; and a five-story, mixed-use project with 80 apartments that a developer is considering at 900 John Nolen Drive.

 

“We’re seeing a lot of interest,” city planner Heather Stouder said.

 

Strasser is co-chairman of the county’s new Alliant Energy Center Strategic Design Study Committee, which is exploring how the campus could host an entertainment district with hotels, restaurants and other attractions. He sees the proposed Holiday Inn as a positive sign.

 

“Any hotel that may go in there, especially this early, is a big shot in the arm and shows developers see the potential as well,” Strasser said.

Plans call for building a 21-unit apartment building at 2620 Monroe St., currently the site of Town & Country auto repair.  Neighbors opposed to the project are appealing its recent approval by the Plan Commission to the full City Council. A hearing is set for Sept. 3.

The county committee just started its work and in the coming months will issue a request for proposals from consultants to evaluate and prepare a market study for the Alliant Energy Center site, he said.

 

The county is planning to convert and expand barns at the center into year-round, multipurpose facilities to attract more events.

 

“I think there’s potential for more large events there in the future,” Page said. “We want to be part of that.”

 

If approvals are secured, Page said he and his partners hope to begin construction in October and open the hotel in November 2014.

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