Commission Approves 27-Story Tower
Madison developer revives 27-story proposal on Prospect next to Goll House.
A proposal for a 27-story, 192-unit apartment building at 1550 N. Prospect Ave. is back, and so are the opponents of the project. Opposition to the project proposed by developer Chris Houden and his firm DCH Properties comes primarily from residents of the nearby 1522 on the Lake condominium tower. As part of developing the tower, Houden would also relocate and restore the historic Goll House closer to N. Prospect Ave.
Restarting the approval process for the second time in as many years, Houden and Kahler Slater principal Thomas Miller presented the project to the City Plan Commission Monday afternoon. They’ve made slight adjustments to the proposed tower, most of which are more policy related than actual design changes to the building. Clearly designed to curry favor with the council, the developer is now proposing to utilize union labor and is pledging to voluntary comply with city programs designed to provide jobs for un- or under-employed city residents and minority-owned firms.
In presenting the small tweaks to the project to the commission, Houden noted “we took a great project and with your feedback l made it better through improvements to vehicle access and articulation on the bluff side.” Miller noted that the project, which includes 212 parking spaces, would now include two interior parking spaces for box trucks to park, reducing the number of moving trucks and other delivery that would have to park along N. Prospect Ave. The building would also now be built without the need to drive piles, a process that is loud and disruptive to area residents.
The project will next go before the Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee in September before going before the full council.
The project, estimated to cost $55 million, requires a zoning change because it roughly doubles the allowable building size for the site.
The proposal failed before the Common Council in July 2016 on a 10 to 5 vote. Because of a certified petition submitted to the City Clerk by nearby property owners, the proposed zoning change for the site required a 12-vote super majority. That super majority is likely to be required again, as nearby residents of 1522 on the Lake are organized in their opposition and likely to submit a petition again.
At least one resident of 1522 on the Lake thinks the project, even if the council approves it, will take years to move forward. Attorney David Bourne, who resides in the adjacent 1522 tower, stated “[the project] simply starts litigation, it’s not a threat, it’s a statement of virtual certainty.” Bourne noted that potential lawsuits could involve a number of issues, including potential damage to the foundation of 1522 and other area buildings.
Bourne isn’t the only high-powered attorney in the building, Patrick Dunphy of local firm Cannon & Dunphy also resides in the building and has previously led opposition to development proposals for the site.
Joining Bourne in testifying at the public hearing were 11 other community members. More than two-thirds of them testified in opposition. Nearly all of those testifying in opposition self-identified as residents of the 1522 tower, with all of those testifying in favor having some stake in the project’s construction.
Area Alderman Strongly Opposed
Before any lawsuits around the project can start, the council will have to approve the project. The alderman that represents the site is continuing to be steadfastly opposed to the project.
Alderman Robert Bauman, who has previously opposed the project, reinforced that position at today’s meeting. The alderman, wearing a “Protect Prospect” sticker distributed by project opponents, noted that the only design change he can see is that the project has been moved 10 feet further from the bluff.
Bauman also noted that the developer is currently not proposing any method that would legally require them to meet the resident and minority contracting hiring standards. This has been an issue for the city even for projects that are legally required to do this because of city financial assistance. For more on that, see a recent column by my colleague Graham Kilmer.
But the bulk of Bauman’s opposition to the project stemmed from his determination that it doesn’t comply with the Northeast Side Comprehensive Area Plan. The plan, approved in 2009, includes guidelines for future development in the area based on feedback compiled from area stakeholders and city officials.
Bauman cited a number of provisions in the plan he doesn’t believe the proposed tower complies with, contradicting an earlier presentation from Department of City Development planning manager Vanessa Koster that outlined how it does. The alderman noted “there was concern expressed with exactly this type of project coming along.”
Bauman added that he believes “you will see significant double parking occurring on Prospect.” This contradicted a statement by Koster earlier in the meeting that the Department of Public Works is not requesting a traffic study for the project on the basis that the configuration and amount of parking proposed is “acceptable.”
Bauman isn’t opposed to all aspects of the project, noting “I think the architecture here is pretty decent.” He noted other sites in the heart of Downtown that he thinks would be good sites for the project — none, however, along the lake.
The alderman will need to find at least three other allies to prevent the zoning change from going through. Voting against the project with Bauman last year were aldermen Cavalier Johnson, Jose G. Perez, Mark Borkowski and Tony Zielinski.
Borkowski, however, moved to change his vote in November 2016, which still wasn’t enough to gain approval for the project. Borkowski and Johnson voted for the change on the second vote, but alderwoman Milele A. Coggs abstained and Russell W. Stamper, II switched to voting against the change. It again failed on a 10-4 vote.
Developer Chris Houden isn’t likely to back away from developing the site. Even after being denied the zoning variance last year, he went ahead and acquired the site and mansion from an affiliate of Dominion Properties for $1.6 million in October 2016.
1550 Prior Renderings
Goll House – Interior
Goll House – Exterior
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