At the risk of offending Geico’s cavemen and upsetting the insurance company’s legal department, this editorial board’s policy on student housing in Madison can be broken down pretty simply:
More housing good. Drives down rental costs for students. Improves living conditions to slightly better standards than apartments in Yemen. Yay.
We are pleased to hear “Lord” Otto Gebhardt III has proposed a plan to erect two high-rise apartment complexes near the University of Wisconsin campus at the corner of Spring and Orchard streets. According to Gebhardt, two “obsolete” rental houses would be demolished, with the replacement buildings nearly doubling the number of apartments available.
Modeled off Gebhardt’s Park Terrace West apartment complexes, the new structures would be energy efficient and provide parking space. With demolition of the current buildings possible as early as August, the project could be completed in time for the fall 2011 semester.
Though the height of the structures is always a concern when new developments are proposed — Gebhardt hopes the Spring Street building will reach 10 stories, while the Orchard Street complex will finish at nine — maintaining a tasteful d�cor isn’t really a concern in this area of town. Flanked by the Charter Heating and Cooling Plant to the east and a McDonalds to the west, the block currently has the aesthetic appeal of Gary, Indiana. A few snazzy-looking high-rises could only help at this point.
So what could possibly delay a seemingly fruitful plan for all parties involved?
Unfortunately, the land Gebhardt wishes to build upon is currently included in UW’s master plan for expansion, and is scheduled to be utilized in the creation of a new academic building sometime in the next 15 to 20 years — although they have not yet purchased all the land for such development. While constructing 10-story buildings that might not last more than a few decades seems foolhardy, Gebhardt is aware of the risk and is fine with turning over the land to UW when the university is ready to build on it.
“The thing is, the plan says 15 to 20 years is the minimum,” Gebhardt said in an interview with Paul Snyder of the Daily Reporter. “It might not actually happen for 30 or 35 years.”
For its part, UW remains detached from Gebhardt’s proposal, and “the university neither supports nor objects,” according to an e-mail from Gary Brown, director of campus planning and landscape architecture for UW-Madison Facilities Planning & Management.
So while it may be baffling as to why someone would be willing to invest in such a tenuous project, it is not our money, nor the city’s moneyfor that matter. These apartments can only bring joy to students’ lives — or at least mild comfort and wireless Internet — and the Urban Design Commission shouldn’t stand in the way of that. Students won’t have a problem with this, quite the opposite in fact, and UW seems fine with the proposal. Urban Design Commission, let Lord Otto tear down these walls!