Ald. Mike Verveer looks at the new plans for an apartment complex in the Holy Redeemer parking lot.[/media-credit]

Members of the Mansion Hill neighborhood, along with parishioners of the Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, met Monday to review plans to build an apartment complex in the church parking lot.

The proposed building would be five stories tall and contain 46 units ranging from one to three bedrooms. There would also be 33 underground parking stalls for residents, replacing the 41 parking stalls currently behind the church.

Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, stressed how important the type of meeting was for the neighborhood. As a historical neighborhood, Mansion Hill rarely ever has large projects that require meetings of this kind.

Verveer said resident and parishioner opinions would take a large part in both the plans themselves and the likelihood of them being approved by the various city committees that will consider them.

Parishioners of the church questioned whether an apartment building was the best use for the land.

One of their main concerns about land use had to do with parking. With parking limited, the loss of 41 stalls would force many people to park in the ramp across the street, which may be too full to accommodate the extra cars.

Another concern of parishioners was about who would live in the proposed building. For example, parishioner Gail Geib was concerned the building may become home to an unsavory crowd, and many other parishioners expressed they would like the building to be for attendees of the church.

Under Madison’s fair housing laws, apartment leasers are not allowed to discriminate based on religion or lifestyle, according to Tom Kline, vice president of Oakbrook Companies, the firm that would handle the property management of the apartment.

Kline assured parishioners all residents would go through a thorough screening process, but the company must follow Madison fair housing laws.

Chair of Mansion Hill Neighborhood Association Gene Devitt agreed an apartment might not be the best use for this land.

Devitt believes the land should be used for something that would attract more people to come downtown to attend church instead of choosing a church in a more suburban setting.

“Churches are very important to our (downtown) neighborhoods,” Devitt said.

Devitt suggested the possibility of leasing to a private school company that would draw families downtown to the church.

Other residents not affiliated with the church were excited about the project and liked the idea of providing more space for people to live downtown near businesses.

“From a neighbor standpoint, I think that this is an excellent project,” resident Richard Kiesling said.

Most parishioners were still unconvinced about the project by the end of the meeting, especially concerning the parking situation.

“You have to understand, a church is a living organism,” Geib said. “We need to have access.”

If the project goes ahead as planned, construction will begin around this time next year and be completed the following year.