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Alderwoman: Planned downtown Madison apartments not another Edgewater

By Paul Snyder

A Madison alderwoman says she wants a proposed downtown apartment building to be an example of a smooth city approval process. But the proposed site is in a historic district known as tough turf for developers.

Madison-based LT McGrath LLC is proposing a 21-unit apartment building on the site of a former Madison Water Utility property in the First Settlement Historic District.

Alderwoman Marsha Rummel said McGraths concept for South Blair and East Main streets seems like a good plan, but she wants to make sure project neighbors have a say before the proposal starts the city approval process.

The project was scheduled this month for review by the city’s Landmarks Commission, but Rummel said that will wait until after a July 8 neighborhood meeting in the First Settlement district.

“I haven’t really heard any complaints,” she said. “But it is in a historic district, and I believe we should dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s now. Maybe we can show how we can get things done for projects in this city.”

LT McGrath principal Lance McGrath was unavailable for comment.

During the city’s year-plus review of the $98 million Edgewater Hotel redevelopment, many Madison developers were critical of project reviews by historic districts in the downtown Capitol Neighborhoods Inc. area, which includes First Settlement.

But that criticism is unfair, said CNI President Adam Plotkin.

CNI opposed the Edgewater project because it exceeded the city’s building size and height limits. Residents in the Mansion Hill Historic District this month sued the city for letting the project proceed after Common Council approval last month.


But Plotkin said that does not mean every project proposed in the area is doomed to face neighborhood opposition.

“The fact is the Edgewater was not the norm,” he said. “It was absolutely the outlier on the bell curve, and Lance is doing a much better job with this project.”

Plotkin said if developers follow the city’s zoning ordinance in terms of building height and density, conflict can be minimized.

“There’s a knee-jerk reaction out there that rejection is the neighborhood’s fault,” he said. “If developers and architects do a fantastic job, then it’s more than likely we’re just going to be nit-picking over details about building materials instead of bigger issues.”

One comment

  1. As a former (west side) Madison alder who supports business development I encourage the Daily Reporter not to accept at face value the new Madison urban legend that any development in downtown Madison or any development in the Capital Neighborhhoods Inc. will be rejected by the residents and the neighborhood associations. The Edgewater proposal was a classic textbook example where the Mayor, the alder, and the developer make a conscious decision to pursue a project that

    1. Included the creation of a shadow neighborhood association which further drove a wedge between the parties (it did)–remember, this is an established, downtown constellation of neighborhood associations;
    2. Frequently submitted revised proposals which didn’t give enough time for commissions, committees, and residents to adequately review, thus causing more confusion, angst, and disappointment;
    3. Advanced a proposal that by any neutral observer violated the landmarks ordinance and thus triggered residents’ confusion, angst and disappointment that a developer from outside Madison would purposively attract negative attention;
    4. Involved an extremely large number of meetings in the Mayor’s Office with the alder, developer, and city staff during times when city residents were not able to attend;
    5. Exposed the Mayor’s intention of changing the development approval process based on an anamoly, rather than on a pattern of dysfunctional approval processes;
    6. Expended a significant amount of lobbyist and other resources, which when coupled with #1-5 led to greater divisions and deeper lines in the sand;
    7. Relied on the strategy that as time went on and city committees/commissions approved or rejected portions of the project that the Mayor, Alder, developer, and friends would perpetuate the now accept Madison urban legend that any development in downtown Madison or any development in the Capital Neighborhhoods Inc. will be rejected by the residents and the neighborhood associations.

    It is unfortunate that the root cause of the Edgewater debacle was politics, not the approval planning process.

    Thank you.

    Noel Radomski

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