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Madison housing proposal on ice (UPDATE)

By Paul Snyder

A developer’s downtown Madison housing proposal is on hold, and could be dead, as the Catholic Diocese of Madison begins its master planning.

But Tom Sather, president of Middleton-based Silverstone Partners Inc., insisted the company’s plan to build a five-story apartment building in the parking lot of the Holy Redeemer Catholic Church is still alive.

“We intend to continue working on it,” Sather said, but there is no timeline.

The company has other projects, and Silverstone is not prepared to meet the March 26 application deadline for Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority tax credits for the apartments, he said. He refused to elaborate.

Putting the project on hold might jeopardize it altogether, said Monsignor Kevin Holmes.

“I doubt this project with Silverstone will ever be built as it was envisioned,” he said. “It’s certainly possible that it might not be built at all.”

Holmes said the diocese will soon begin master planning for development on its four downtown properties — Holy Redeemer, the St. Raphael’s Cathedral site, St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and that church’s adjacent parking lot.

Holmes said the diocese wants to build a cathedral to replace St. Raphael’s, which was razed in 2008 after it was damaged three years earlier in an arson fire, and development at the other churches is expected to follow.

The apartment proposal normally would not be part of the master plan, he said, and it was considered only because of its projected 2010 start date.

“It came in with a tight timeline to try to get WHEDA money that’s available,” Holmes said. “But really, it’s still under study to see if we have the interest to warrant it.”

Silverstone proposed the 46-unit project in September, with plans to enter into a land-lease agreement with the diocese. Planners suggested the apartment units could be leased mainly to parishioners. Negotiations with city officials were under way to provide parking in the city’s State Street Capitol garage during mass to replace the spaces that would be lost to the apartments.

Madison-based Landgraf Construction Inc. was to be the general contractor.

Mark Landgraf, the company’s president, did not return repeated calls for comment.

Holmes said some parishioners are interested in having a living space adjacent to the church, but others are not.

In Holy Redeemer’s Sunday bulletin, Holmes alluded to “the city approval process and the financing for the project” as potential stumbling blocks.

Neither Holmes nor Sather would comment further on city approvals or financing issues aside from the WHEDA deadline.

Sather said he is aware of the diocese’s intention to begin master planning, which could alter his project’s scope. But he said the company is committed to eventually building the project.

“At this point, anything’s possible,” he said. “We just need more time.”

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