Neighbors in opposition to the demolition of 240 W. Gilman St., the former site of the Madison Women’s Building, were introduced to developer Joe McCormick’s new plan for the property. The new proposal will save one third of the original building, something many who opposed the original plan, agreed with.
In attendance were neighbors, Joe Lussen, president of the Wisconsin Trust for Historic Preservation, and downtown business owners, including Ron Czerwien, owner of Avol’s, which presently resides at 326 W. Gilman St. Alder Austin King was also present to listen to neighbors’ concerns, adding he hoped some resolution would be reached by the end of the meeting. Many not in attendance were mentioned to be opposed to the loss of the building, most notably, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz.
Michael Brush, who is the architect for the new development, unveiled the new plans, which include restoration of one third of the original building, with building space for retail, offices and housing around the building.
Brush said the building would be built for “mixed use” instead of being “out of use,” as much of the building currently is. He also said the new proposal is “more modern and useful to the city of Madison.”
“We want this building to be the star of the block,” Brush said.
However, those present were still critical of the new plan, deeming it as “too large” and over-shadowing the former women’s building. Neighbor Sheridan Glenn said he felt the new building “fails to capture the essence of the history of Madison.”
While many did not have anything positive to say about the new plan, some commented that they felt the new development’s plan is better than demolishing the building. However, many did say they were in agreement with McCormick’s plans to build in the parking lot behind 326 W. Gilman St.
Most who were concerned about the preservation of the building believe the establishment is eligible for historic preservation in the city of Madison. Lussen said although the new proposal saves part of the building, the Madison Historical Trust Foundation still opposes the plan and unanimously voted that they were in support of saving the entire building, not just part of it, like the new plan does.
Member of the Save the Women’s Building group, Ledell Zellers said at the meeting the group has collected close to 1,000 signatures representing those who want to see the building saved. She emphasized the fact that the group wants to see the entire building saved, not just part of it. She also said the building now helps preserve the historic look of the State Street neighborhood, something she feels the new neighborhood would not. Zellers said she did not want to be a part of the “homogenization” of State Street.
After the public hearings, questions directed to McCormick were asked, most of which went unanswered at the meeting due to lack of time, but McCormick said he would take into consideration the neighbors’ comments.