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Condo proposal resurfaces in Madison (UPDATE)

By Paul Snyder

A condominium project up for approval from the city of Madison represents a developer’s resolve to finish a project more than a signal of a recovering market.

“At the time these were first proposed, it was the go-go years of condos,” said city planner Tim Parks. “Part of the reason we have the glut of space now is because of these large, one-note projects.”

Nevertheless, Verona-based Haen Real Estate has revised its plan for a 112-unit condominium development near Hawks Landing Golf Course on the city’s far west side. The Common Council on Dec. 8 will vote on the revised plan.

Jeff Haen, the company’s president, did not return repeated calls Tuesday before deadline. Price estimates for Haen’s project were unavailable, but, according to city documents, the developer wants to complete the project by 2012.

The project, first pitched in 2005, has faced multiple delays and plan changes prompted by the faltering economy and struggling condo market.

Originally envisioned as a 114-unit project with similar designs spread throughout 19 buildings, the development now has two fewer condos and a wider range of sizes and prices.

“I imagine they’re just going to get a greater cross-range of interest,” Parks said.

Gary Gorman, president & CEO of Oregon-based Gorman & Co. Inc., said changing prices and ideas is a necessity if developers and owners want to avoid paying for empty buildings. Gorman built a 42-unit condominium project, Crosswinds at Hawks Landings, near Haen’s proposed project.

Gorman said his company has had to slash sales prices by up to $80,000 to fill the condos. There are still six unsold condos.

“Rather than continue to pay holding costs,” Gorman said, “we just thought it would be better to drop prices on some of the condos.”

Dane County’s surplus of high-priced condos is a reminder of how saturated the market got before the nation’s economy collapsed, said Darren Kittleson, a real estate agent with Madison-based Keller Williams Realty.

“The last report I saw from October said that of units priced $800,000 and up, there have been 13 sales this year,” he said of condo sales in Dane County. “There are still 122 with an active listing. That’s basically nine years of inventory.”

Market viability and potential sales should not play a role in whether the city approves Haen’s project, said Alderman Jed Sanborn, who represents the Hawks Landing district.

“Economic conditions should not be our concern,” he said. “Empty buildings don’t really concern me. It’s less ideal for people in the area, but is that really worse for anyone than the owner?”

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