Members of the Langdon Street community introduced a petition calling for the neighborhood to be designated as a local historic district, an effort organizers said would preserve the character of the neighborhood, in a city committee meeting Monday night.
The petition, which is currently being circulated online at change.org, aims to prevent high rise apartments from being built in the neighborhood by turning the area into a local historic district, community members said at the Landmarks Commission meeting. As of Monday, the petition had garnered more than 1,000 signatures since its launch.
Connor Nett, a University of Wisconsin sophomore and member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity, said the petition started three weeks ago after he contacted groups who opposed recent development in the area, such as the recent approval of plans to build a six-story student apartment building on Iota Court.
He said making Langdon a local historic district would set standards for development and prevent developers from building high rises. High rises jeopardize the feel of the neighborhood, he said, because the area has a special character and a specific scale and size.
“It’s a highly dense, urban area,” Nett said. “It has a very small-town, homey feel to it that a lot of people in the area really appreciate. The high rise has its place in the city, but Langdon is just not one of those.”
Nett said the Langdon neighborhood is currently a national historic district. He said this means property owners receive tax incentives to preserve the building and keep the integrity of the area. However, he said this is not enough because if the owners decide not to receive the tax incentive, they could develop their property how they want.
He said the petition has received a high amount of support from the community.
“The goal is to improve upon the neighborhood so the campus we have today is the same one we have tomorrow,” Nett said.
Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, said he does not believe making the neighborhood a local historic district is necessary in order to prevent high rises from being built in the neighborhood.
“Bret Bielema has a better chance of becoming chancellor of UW than a high rise has of going up on Langdon Street,” Resnick said.
He said most of the neighborhood has already been zoned so no building can exceed a height of five stories, except for two areas that are allowed to have seven-story buildings.
Resnick said there has been a lot of misinformation spread around since the Iota Court plan was passed. He said it would take more than a year to create a local historic district and the next step for the project will be to discuss the project at neighborhood meetings.
The Landmarks Commission also voted to approve the redevelopment of the Holy Redeemer School located at 142 W. Johnson St., amid strong criticism from the local church parishioners.
Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said the school building was constructed in 1892 and is a Madison historic landmark, designated by the city. It is one of the only 19th century gathering places in the City of Madison, he said.
The Cathedral Parish of St. Raphael proposed the redevelopment, which would turn the building into a student-oriented apartment complex. Parishioners spoke out against the redevelopment and supported maintaining the building as an area to gather. They also said they wanted to keep it as a a place to provide services to the community, such as a food pantry for the homeless and as a space to provide classes for children, teens and adults.
Heidi Figueroa, a parishioner at the church, said the community needs the building.
“For the church to just make money instead of helping people, that’s not right,” Figueroa said. “Let’s fix it for the community that needs it.”