A downtown neighborhood association is beginning to show signs of concern about an upcoming apartment development. 

At a meeting Wednesday night, members of the State-Langdon Neighborhood Association voiced their split opinions about the historical significance of the area where a local developer plans to construct the development at the corner of Iota Court and Henry Street.

The building, designed by Knothe and Bruce Architects, has been reduced in size in response to the last meeting. Carole Schaeffer, owner and president of Schaeffer Consulting, explained there has been a 15 percent reduction in the mass of the building. The original proposal had two extra stories that have been removed.

“We really want this to feel like it fits in the neighborhood,” Schaeffer said.

Still, members of the association were conflicted about the impact the development would have on the neighborhood’s listing as an historic district.

Neighborhood resident and member of the Madison Trust for Historic Preservation Ledell Zellers explained while the building would not necessarily end the neighborhood’s listing, it would be a “cog in the wheel.”

According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, in order to be considered an historic district, neighborhoods must be a local example of an architectural style. Historical districts also qualify for certain tax credits, according to the WHS.

Zellers said the process to set up a national registered historic district is quite rigorous.

To become an historic district, a neighborhood or property owner must start by filing out a lengthy questionnaire about the history of the area as well as developmental changes to the buildings. If an area changes too much and no longer represents international architecture, a district could lose its designation.

Schaeffer explained the development of the building at Iota court involves weighing benefits and potential harms. She said she hopes that despite concern about the building, it will provide some positives in the area.

“It’s very much a balancing act,” Schaeffer said. “There’s things in terms of sustainability that we will be able to do here that currently we’re not.”

In addition, Schaeffer noted the increased safety that could be possible with the new building. She said there have been discussions with both the police and fire departments, and emergency access to the area is currently quite limited. 

According to Schaeffer, the new building would mean expanding the lane to the building, allowing ease of access for emergency vehicles.

“We are widening the lane to 20 feet in width, creating an emergency access lane for the Madison Fire Department as well as pedestrian access,” said Randy Bruce of Knothe & Bruce Architects in the last meeting.

Local residents, including those from the Cliff Dweller, the Lodge Fraternity and Nottingham Cooperative, had also been worried about noise from balconies. Schaeffer said architects have pulled back the balconies and reduced the sides of the building in an effort to please the residents.

The project still faces meetings with Landmarks Commission, Urban Design Commission and City Council, which could all request changes.

“There are a couple of different routes we have to take,” Schaeffer said.

The State-Langdon Neighborhood Association will meet again Dec. 12 and will discuss any new developments in the Iota court project.

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