A city committee unanimously approved the initial design plans for the redevelopment of three downtown area building proposals at a meeting Wednesday.
The mixed-use project that the Urban Design Committee approved is a new apartment building requiring the demolition of the three existing properties at 415 W. Johnson, 226 N. Broom Street and 424 W. Dayton Street, according to Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4.
Many of the students currently living in the Dayton Square apartments would live in the newly approved building, Verveer said.
The building design was reduced by two units since its initial proposal, according to Eric Lawson, president and CEO of Potter Lawson, Inc. The design now contains 317 units, he said. The firm moved amenities around, added two studios and took away a two- bedroom apartment, he added.
The designs presented to the commission were not much different than the original plans for the site, but they did respond to community comments, according to Lawson.
“We were really tight to the property line before with stairs,” Lawson said. “We looked at lobby and pulled property line back to give relief to the entrance.”
Lawson added the treatment of the architecture was different than before as well. The neighborhood is pleased with this change, he said.
UDC members addressed the effects of the building on the sidewalk and green space in the neighborhood. Lawson said the firm would be willing to work with the city to come up with the best possible solution to the issue.
UDC member John Harrington said he was concerned regarding bike parking in the new design. He said the design should either incorporate more space for bike parking on the sidewalk outside or allocate more space inside the building.
While he liked the design overall, Jeff Ripp, a resident of the neighborhood for 20 years, also said he was concerned with the idea of the project.
Ripp said the new building would displace the low-income residents of the area. This project leads to more apartments only for those who can afford it, he noted.
Ripp emphasized the importance of the commission’s decision to resolving the issues surrounding the project.
“Your favorable treatment with little to no changes allows this [project] to steamroll through,” Ripp said.
Ald. Marsha Rummel, District 6, asked the architects whether the design could either keep some of the existing buildings or incorporate the buildings into the plan.
Lawson said the area was deemed “obsolete” as part of the downtown plan and marked for redevelopment.
Verveer echoed several of Ripp’s concerns.
“My enthusiasm is somewhat tempered by the loss of affordable housing [at Dayton Square],” Verveer said. “The rent is relatively affordable compared to other downtown housing. I assume the new development would be more costly.”
However, Verveer said overall he is supportive of the Dayton Square redevelopment project.
According to Verveer, Lawson needs final approval from the commission. If the design plans are approved, the project proposal will move on to Plan Commission and then to Common Council, he said.