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Border could separate project success, failure

By: //May 25, 2010//

Border could separate project success, failure

By: //May 25, 2010//

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Paul Snyder
[email protected]

Eighty feet could mean the difference between failure and success for affordable housing along a Madison area corridor.

University Avenue is all that separates two housing projects. The first, proposed by Warrenville, Ill.-based Andover Hill Investments LLC on the village of Shorewood Hills side of the avenue, drowned in a sea of community skepticism in February.

The second, proposed by Madison-based Stone House Development Inc. for the Madison side of the avenue, is riding a wave of optimism.

Both developers relied on Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority-approved federal tax credits to make the projects work, and both pitched high-density housing projects.

Andover proposed a 69-unit apartment project. Stone House is proposing a 96-unit apartment project on the soon-to-be-developed Target site at Hilldale Mall.

Madison and Shorewood Hills differ in their views of affordable housing, said Gary Gorman, president and CEO of Oregon-based Gorman & Co. Inc. Gorman said he never has proposed an affordable-housing project in Shorewood Hills, nor does he intend to.

“The dominant mind-set there is they don’t want the nature of folks who lived in affordable housing living there,” he said. “Is that the way the world should be? No. Is that the way the world is? Yes.”

David Benforado, a Shorewood Hills trustee and member of the village’s Plan Commission, said residents were nervous about Andover Hill’s proposal. But he said his objections were not tied to the types of people who would live there.

“It’s an oddly shaped site,” Benforado said of the property that now has the Pyare Square office building. “I was concerned about the density and the height, and there was a lot of residential concern about the fact that it was section 42 housing.”

Section 42 refers to the WHEDA-approved tax credits for the project and applies to low-income housing.

Benforado said residents wanted to know how increased density would affect school enrollment, Fire Department services and municipal pool use. He said the developer tried to rush the village to a decision to meet WHEDA’s March deadline for tax credit applications.

“We didn’t have time to fully understand what we needed to,” Benforado said.

David Bornstein, Andover’s principal, declined to comment on the village’s response to his project. He said he does not intend to return with a proposal for the village.

On the Madison side of University, it’s still too early to call the proposal a success, said Rich Arnesen, Stone House’s vice president. He said the estimated $16 million development is contingent on receiving the tax credits, which WHEDA will announce in June.

If the project gets the credits, Arnesen said, Stone House wants to be ready for construction by September.

It helps that Stone House is a local company with a proven affordable-housing record in the city, said Joe Keyes, president of the Hill Farms Neighborhood Association, which represents Stone House’s proposed site.

If an out-of-state developer proposed the same project, he said, the neighborhood likely would have had more questions.

Similarly, had Stone House or another local developer proposed the Shorewood Hills project, the village might have reacted differently, said Karl Franz, Shorewood Hills’ village administrator.

Benforado agreed, but he said the village wants more than affordable housing. He said he wants creative developers proposing housing projects that include affordable and market-rate options with built-in retail.

It’s not fair to paint Shorewood Hills as a community against affordable housing, Benforado said.

“The parcels along University Avenue are going to be sought-after,” he said. “I think that gives governments a little more room to be picky.”

But that doesn’t explain the reaction to a similar affordable-housing proposal on the other side of the street, Gorman said. That difference, he said, is enough to send a message to developers.

“We’ve got limited financial resources to work with,” he said. “We’re going to go where we know we can work.”


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