Madison’s largest community cooperative faces the threat of losing its house due to the cost of damages six months after a fire.
Following the fire last September, Lothlorien Co-op had an estimated $125,000 in damages, Eric Dahl, Madison Fire Department spokesperson, said. At the time of the fire, MFD had difficulty accessing the damage because of the house’s location on a hill and the narrow streets that provided limited mobility for fire trucks, he said.
Now, six months after the incident, said the estimated cost for repairing the co-op is about $800,000, Haven McClure, the coordinating officer for the Madison Community Cooperative, said. He said the $300,000 insurance settlement for the house has led the cooperative to float a referendum with the members of Lothlorien to consider selling the property.
Lothlorien residents have set up a gofundme campaign and have currently raised almost $5,000.
Many of the co-op members were not supportive of this proposal, and McClure said some disputed the financial figures.
“Really what it comes down to is this: We have to replace 31 units. And if we don’t, we start losing money,” McClure said.
McClure said MCC can replace the units in two ways. They can either sell the property or they will have to borrow $500,000 dollars if they want to renovate the house. The property is valued at $1.6 million and if they sell the house, members could buy several properties to replace the units and still come out ahead.
Some members have suggested fundraising to attain the money needed for renovations. However, as a fundraising professional for the last 12 years, McClure said his assessment is that it is a huge campaign and that it is unlikely to be successful.
McClure said renovating the house would mean the rent for co-op members would also be increased $18 a month.
“This is difficult because our mission statement says that we are there to provide low income housing,” McClure said.
MCC has started to search for other housing options. They have the potential to move to areas like the east side, where they have never been able to expand to before, he said.
McClure said he is sympathetic with members who have lived at the property for many years and feel the house is synonymous with their co-op. However, he said the organization can only plan based on revenue they can count on, and they have to base their decision on the fact that one of the options is a much riskier investment.
“There are a lot of memories associated with 225 W. Lake Lawn, but new memories can come into place too,” McClure said.
Ultimately, the final decision is up to the members of the Lothlorien co-op. MCC bylaws require there be a two-thirds majority of MCC contracted members that vote to sell the house in order for the property to be sold, he said. The members will vote later this month.