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Housing projects stumble in bumpy market

By Paul Snyder

The Gallina Cos. is asking Madison for a two-year extension to build an 81-acre subdivision on the city’s west side.

Craig Enzenroth, president of Middleton-based Gallina, said the real estate market is too shaky to immediately move forward with the Tormey Ridge project, which would include 162 single-family lots and three multifamily lots for 223 owner-occupied and rental units.

“Ideally we’d like to have work under way by fall of 2011,” he said.

The Common Council approved the subdivision in April 2008, giving Gallina two years to finalize plans. Enzenroth said the company does not plan to abandon the project but is not ready to commit this year.

It is at least the second time this month the economy has affected a proposed housing project. The Common Council last week approved changes to an apartment complex project originally designed with retail and housing options.

Justin Temple, a developer with Madison-based Barrow Ridge LLC, said the original plans were not attracting investors.

“We’ve actively been trying to sell the project for two years,” he said. “We just couldn’t get it to price out.”

Now, instead of a three-building apartment complex with retail space, Barrow Ridge intends to start construction this summer on a two-building project with the option of retail space. The Plan Commission and Common Council let Temple design the first floors as flex space to be used for apartments or retail.

It’s the way Madison should do business, said Alderman Jed Sanborn.

“I just want the market to determine what’s built and where,” he said. “I want market realities driving projects, not what we were originally told two years ago that might not be able to work today.

“This city does get picky and prescriptive about plans and, in my opinion, there’s way too much of that.”

Eric Sundquist, a member of the city’s Plan Commission, said commission members are sensitive to how the economy stalls or alters projects, but the city should not make a habit of approving a project, then allowing extensive changes.

But if the market is not there for what was originally proposed, Temple said, developers are stuck.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” he said. “Everything has a shelf life, and we’ve already put about $1.5 million into the project. Do you keep making payments on holding costs, or do you try to see if the project can make money?”

Enzenroth said the city will not have to worry about Gallina changing plans for the subdivision. It just will take time to get it done.

“At this point,” he said, “it’s just a matter of waiting for the economy to recover.”

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