A tentative plan is in place for renovating the old “Quonset hut” buildings on the 1200 block of East Washington Avenue, as well as adding on a building that could turn into office space.
Quonset huts were mass-produced in both World Wars for the Navy, according to SteelMaster’s website, a business that still constructs these buildings today. Despite the name, these buildings are actually long, metal arch-style structures.
Lance McGrath, owner of McGrath Property Group, said he did not realize the potential of the space until after they bought it. The section of land bought included five different parcels, one of them being the Quonset hut, he said.
“Once [the group] walked in there and looked at it, it is a really unique, creative building,” McGrath said. “It is these two 20-foot radius arcs that meet in the middle, and there is kind of a raw, corrugated aluminum finish. … It is just a really unique piece of architecture, which you really do not see a lot of in Madison.”
The plans for the new building are supposed to showcase an industrial warehouse type of building, project architect Joseph Lee said. The building will include a lot of masonry and large windows, due to the context of the area where the building is planned to be built.
“There is a lot of masonry and buildings with that feel,” Lee said. “And that is also an aesthetic that the neighborhood association liked, as well as the developer.”
JLA Architects and Planning is looking forward to working on the project and the redevelopment of the area, Lee said.
The new space could be a number of different types of companies, McGrath said. It could be an office for a creative design company of some sort, or it could be space for bars or restaurants.
The plan for renovation is just a proposal at this point, Ald. Ledell Zellers, District 2, said. It is too early in the planning process to determine what the building will function as, she said.
“[The city] does not even know whether this will be the proposal that will be approved or not,” Zeller said. “The alternative is to demolish the whole thing and build three stories on that piece of property.”
McGrath said he is prepared with plans for two possible outcomes: tearing down the whole foundation or building over the hut. The preferred option would be to keep the front of the old building and build a four-story building on the corner of the block, McGrath said.
The property group would like to take the facade off the front of the building and put in a glass wall, exposing the structure of the building and what the architecture really looks like, McGrath said. The goal is to add some diversity to the street-scape of the area.
“[The proposal] is getting a lot of attention, as most proposal developments do in that area,” Zellers said. “The neighborhood has been very involved and has been working with the developer.”
The proposal will be brought forward to the Tenney Lapham Steering Committee, the neighborhood group in the second district, which has met with the developer several times, Zellers said. The committee will decide whether they want to take a position on the development of the area.