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Developer lowers Madison project to please neighbors

By: Adam Wise//August 3, 2011//

Developer lowers Madison project to please neighbors

By: Adam Wise//August 3, 2011//

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By Adam Wise

LZ Ventures, which wants to construct an apartment building on the site of the St. Francis Episcopal Student Center in Madison, has chopped it plans by four stories to appease neighbors of the project. (File photo by Kevin Harnack)

A city of Madison developer has chopped four levels from its planned 12-story apartment building on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus to shed light on a neighboring landmark.

LZ Ventures now seeks to build an eight-story complex at the St. Francis Episcopal Student Center, 1001 University Ave.; a move that’s essentially offering an olive branch to members of neighboring Luther Memorial Church, which has heavily opposed the project since inception.

“We had looked at the 12-story with a little more elegance, a little more airiness, a little more interesting,” said Bill White, an attorney for the developer. “We’re floating the eight-story and so far it’s been well-received.”

What the building is losing in height it is gaining in width, he said.

“It kind of spreads out a little bit more,” White said, “covers more of the site.”

Luther Memorial congregation members turned out in droves to oppose the project this year at city meetings. Most of the objections related to the proposed building blocking sunlight, creating congestion and leading to more crime in the area.

The previous design would’ve shaded a portion of Luther Memorial for part of the morning, but the new project should alleviate those concerns, White said.

“There may be some very minor impact, but certainly less than 12 stories would provide,” he said.

Luther Memorial Church has hired an architect to study the new plans for the apartment complex, said Harvey Temkin, an attorney with Madison-based Reinhart, Boerner, Van Deuren SC. He would not reveal what firm they are working with.

“We’re having somebody take at look at this, professionally, and see what the impact is on us,” Temkin said. “Shadow studies — it’s the same issues.”

The decision to alter the plans came after the Plan Commission voted in July to deny a demolition permit at the site of St. Francis, which as part of a deal with LZ Ventures, would tear down the newest portion of its building — an addition built about 50 years ago — while moving its 80-year-old student center flush with Luther Memorial along University Avenue.

The new design now must be reintroduced to the city’s Plan, Urban Design and Landmarks commissions before returning to the Common Council, likely Sept. 20.

Initial plans included 90 apartments and the new design is able to maintain about the same number of units, said White, of Michael Best & Friedrich LLP in Madison. He did not have specific information on the building’s new dimensions, however.

Although the new building will be shorter and wider, White said, he doesn’t expect crowding at the site to become an issue. The land is zoned for high-density residential development.

Representatives from both sides, in addition to several city staff members and two aldermen, came together last week to gauge interest in a compromise, said Alderman Scott Resnick, who represents Madison’s 8th District, where the project is proposed.

“No matter what, this project isn’t going away,” Resnick said. “The meeting was very, very positive. I think the eight-story building meets the desires of the city committees and it really does hinge a lot on what the Plan Commission says is an appropriate project for that neighborhood.”

White said Luther Memorial representatives had seen the new designs, which were not provided to The Daily Reporter.

Their reaction was “cautious,” he said, “as you can well imagine.”

“We’re going to do our best to listen to their concerns and meet their concerns,” White said. “It’s in our interest to have a good relationship with the neighbors.”

Temkin said the church’s congregation hadn’t formed a position on the updated project.

“I don’t know if we’re going to see something where everybody is satisfied,” Resnick said, “but at the very least, we have everybody sitting down and discussing, and on the first proposal, I don’t think that was necessarily the case. I’m sure outside of this development, everybody will be a great neighbor.”

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