After months of deliberation over logistics and concerns voiced by community members, Madison’s City Council approved a proposal to build a six-story student apartment building in the Langdon Street neighborhood Tuesday evening.
The City Council voted 15-3 with two absences to approve the contentious building proposal to be located on Iota Court. Fourteen votes were required for passage.
Chris Houden, the co-owner of Palisade Property, is one of the developers of the proposed building. He said he met over 60 times with alders, neighbors and staff to discuss the project.
Many members of the Langdon community said they worried the project would ruin the historic and community feel of the neighborhood. In response, Houden said the buildings his proposal would demolish are irreparable and the new building would fit into the neighborhood.
He said all of the current buildings contain fire hazards, citing an example of one that has only a single stairwell. He also cited moisture damage, inefficient sewage lines and other parts of the buildings, which were not meant to last for 100 years.
“No matter what we do to these buildings, they would remain substandard and obsolete housing,” Houden said.
Ald. Mark Clear, District 19, cited the incredible odors one experiences in the current buildings. He said he supported the new project and evolution of Madison’s buildings and built environment is necessary.
Steven Cover, the director of planning and community and economic development, said he agreed a higher density development like the one approved is appropriate in the Langdon area. But, he said the development should ultimately not be located around buildings that are contributing to the historic register.
Colin Bowden, vice-president of the State and Langdon Neighborhood Association, said he was opposed to the project and agreed with those who were against taking down the historical buildings where developers would build the proposed project.
Bowden said introducing new buildings into the historic neighborhood will mean an increase in rent prices in the neighborhood.
“People don’t want to pay $75 or $100 more a month to live in the same place they’ve been living,” Bowden said.
Bill Fruhling, the city’s planning division director, said as more of the buildings that contribute to the neighborhood are lost, it erodes the feel of the district.
Ald. Bridget Maniaci, District 2, said she believes the project is in line with the Downtown Plan, which provides the guidelines for development in the downtown area.
She said the plan facilitates debate with the community, organizes the priorities of the city and gives the neighbors a sense of priority so they understand what may or may not be acceptable.
Ald. Steve King, District 7, said the city needs to take a bigger perspective on what it means to be contributing to the community to better balance priorities. He said the developers have worked with the city to create a project that is a significantly better project in every way.
“I’m actually amazed anything ever gets built in this city,” King said.
Cover said deciding whether or not the current buildings contribute to the neighborhood goes beyond the age of the buildings. The project would create a sense of place that is not currently there, replacing the tired and worn out feel of the current buildings, he said.
“There’s been lots of testimony, lots of opinions, lots of controversy and lots of passion,” Cover said. “I think we get caught up in trying to make the perfect project, and I don’t think there is any such thing as a perfect project.”