At a Mifflin neighborhood meeting Monday night, attendees debated a proposal to expand the building space for a Madison non-profit organization off the Capitol Square.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation has proposed an addition to Freethought Hall, located on 304 W. Washington Ave., Dan Barker, the organization’s co-president, said.
The building was built in the 1850s, according to Barker. The Foundation bought the building in 1990 and has since been growing to the point where it is now so crowded they need to expand, he said.
“We thought about moving, but we love this neighborhood,” Barker said.
Andrew Seidel, attorney for the group, said the existing establishment was so full the co-presidents were required to share office space, the editor had given up his office for storage and his personal office was pushed to the corner of the conference room.
Bill Montelbano, the architect for the development, said the proposal consists of a four-story addition to the original building, which will require the demolition of the six unit apartment building on 10 and 12 N. Henry St. The plan also calls for adding a third floor to the existing establishment.
Montelbano said the plan would “rejuvenate” the building by restoring its exterior sandstone from the 1940s.
With the foundation’s rapid expansion, Seidel said the group hopes to get more University of Wisconsin students involved in positions like internships.
“Expanded space will allow us to [involve] the UW community,” he said. “I really do believe it will be great for the UW.”
Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-founder and co-president, added one in three young people say they are non-religious, which has allowed the Foundation to grow.
In response to concerns about the demolition of the apartments, Seidel said while there are current tenants, the apartment building was “unworkable” for the new project, making demolition the best option.
The apartment is not listed on the landmark list from an architectural standpoint, Montelbano added.
Gaylor said members were hoping to finalize the demolition in April but they would honor the lease.
Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, who facilitated the meeting, asked about a tree located in front of the six-unit apartment building, which may need to be cut down with the demolition of the building. Removal of the tree could cause frustration for the fire department, he said.
According to Montelbano, the tree would not be cut down before construction. He said he was optimistic it would withstand demolition.
Montelbano said the proposal has come before the Urban Design Commission once and will be up for the committee’s consideration again on Wednesday. Following that meeting, the foundation hopes to receive final approval from UDC on March 20 and would then present to Plan Commission on April 8, he said.