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 McGrath‘s 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.”