A city of Madison commission failed to approve the construction of a seven-story student housing unit near Langdon Street Monday night.
The nearly 17,000-square foot housing unit was proposed to be built on Henry Street and Iota Court and would have been adjacent the Chi Psi Fraternity house, but the Landmarks Commission voted to oppose it.
J. Randolph Bruce, the building’s architect, said three existing buildings in the Langdon Street area would need to be demolished to construct the unit. He said, however, the new unit would resemble the demolished buildings and fit in with the historic look and feel of Langdon Street.
Ald. Michael Rosenblum, District 19, said he felt the proposed unit was too close in proximity to the Chi Psi Fraternity and would overshadow other nationally-landmarked buildings in the Langdon Street area due to its large size.
“It’d be really tough to see three historic buildings demolished,” Rosenblum said.
Madison Lawyer Fred Mohs, a former member of Chi Psi Fraternity, said he and other Chi Psi alumni have spent millions of dollars to renovate the fraternity house. The presence of the large building across the street would diminish their hard work, Mohs said.
Mohs said the look and feel of Langdon Street should be preserved and added in the past, proposals to build high-rise complexes were moved to University Avenue or Johnson Street. He mentioned the Palisade Apartments as an example.
Stephanie Stender, Kappa Kappa Gamma house board member, said she was opposed to the project because it diluted Langdon Street’s unique historic character.
“The fact Langdon Street is recognized as a National Register Historic District shows it is a precious asset to not only our city, but our country,” Stender said.
Amy Scanlon, Landmarks Commission staff member, said a National Register Historic District is not an area that is governed locally, but is governed nationally and is recognized by its character or date of development and provided with tax credits or incentives.
Bruce also proposed allowing full public access to Langdon Lane. He said emergency vehicles, as well as general vehicular traffic, could use the lane to pick up and drop off passengers.
Madison Area Attorney David Sparer said he currently assists and is a former member of Nottingham Cooperative, located at 146 Langdon Street.
Sparer said Langdon Lane is currently used as a driveway for the co-op’s residents, and the proposed unit would make it unusable. He said Langdon Lane is not a city-owned or maintained street and there would be legal issues if the proposed project were approved.
Ald. Erica Fox Gehrig, District 13, said a motion proposed and unanimously approved by the Landmarks Commission opposes the demolition of the three buildings to build the new unit. She said concern was expressed about the long-term implications of the unit, as well as inconsistencies with the Downtown Planning Commission’s guidelines.
Ald. Marsha Rummel, District 6, said ultimately, the building could not meet the standards proposed by the city and would dramatically change the intimate quality of the Langdon Street area.
“It’s a nice building, but the wrong location,” Rummel said.