As Madison sees more and more new housing development projects, student groups and historical preservationists alike are concerned about the changing nature of the city.

The push for affordable housing for students often surrounds new city housing developments, which have recently been mostly high-end apartments, Ald. Ledell Zellers, District 2, said.

“We definitely need affordable housing for students,” Zellers said. “We need affordable housing for workers. We just need more affordable housing. There are some proposals currently that would develop some affordable housing. However, that tends to be outside of more convenient areas for students.”

Housing developments in Madison, which have been on the rise in recent years, also face scrutiny from several groups that are concerned over preserving historical sites in the city, Zellers said.

One example is the proposal for construction on some Steve Brown buildings on West Gilman Street. Three buildings are under consideration for demolition.

One of these is The Highlander, whose demolition has already been approved with a Certificate of Appropriateness from the city’s Landmarks Commission, Chair Stu Levitan said.

Zellers said though not many people voiced opposition to the demolition of The Highlander, some student groups raised concerns that affordable housing is being consistently replaced by high-end apartments in Madison.

Another building approved for demolition is 123 W. Gilman St., which The Landmarks Commission has agreed could be newly developed at the historic district of 113 W. Gorham St.

The third building under consideration for demolition, 127 W. Gilman St., has been requested for demolition because of a ‘summons and complaint’ issue, according to Zellers. She said the city building inspector noted the house has been neglected and has begun to deteriorate.

Zellers said the controversy surrounding historical preservation is directed toward the just 2 percent of land in Madison that is comprised of historical districts.

“In terms of development, there are so many places that we can do wonderful developments that do not run into any kind of issues,” Zellers said. “Take The Hub for example, the building that is going in on State Street. It went in without any controversy because it meets the zoning and is not in a historic district.”

Zellers said one example of an issue with historical preservation came up last year with the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house. Students spoke out against the demolition, identifying it as an important building in the Langdon National Historical District.

The city ultimately decided to modify the house instead of demolish it. Additions were made that were “respectful to the character of the original building,” she said.

“Property owners are looking to make money from the land that they own, which I understand,” Zellers said. “But as we saw last year there are fairly large groups of students that spoke up in concern because the Langdon area is really the epicenter of the Greek/co-op identity and character. From what I hear, there is a desire to retain that kind of character.”

Correction: The Landmarks Commission has not yet approved the demolition of the building at 123 W. Gilman. It has only approved of 113 W. Gorham St. as a new location for redevelopment should the demolition be approved. 

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