Neighbors Say "No" to High Rises on Historic Site

By: Natalie Swaby
By: Natalie Swaby

Michael Bridgeman is one of many residents not wanting a commercial look to make over one of Madison's oldest neighborhoods. Some city advocates feel the same way about the two acres that make up Block 115.

Joe Lusson of Madison Trust for Preservation explains, "it is one of the top ten endangered properties in the whole state of Wisconsin because of its unique local history and what it means to Madison."

But to developers it means prime real estate.

"To put 175 condos on two acres is very minimum," defends landowner Bob Worm.

He wants the condos to replace a big parking lot. Neighbors have concerns.

"The neighbors would like to see something done with the surface lot," tells resident Michael Bridgeman.

Many of the residents don't mind building up their neighborhood, they just don't want the buildings to get too tall.

"Essen Haus would get torn down, and put up a five story building there, maybe six stories if the neighborhood would let us," says developer Greg Hartman of Middleton's Professional Realty and Development Corporation.

Hartman wants retail shops and eight stories worth of condos, and that order is too tall for some.

"As you can see behind me, the MG&E building is approximately eight stories," points out Worm.

Bridgeman responds to that saying, "that is not necessarily relevant because an eight story building is not compatible in size and matching with the immediate size and surroundings of the neighborhood."

Because of differing opinions no work has been done on the block making the developer wonder if it is time to move on.

"Right now we are on the fence and we are leaning towards backing out of the project, and going somewhere else," admits Hartman.

Developers are waiting on an advisory statement from neighbors.
Once they have that, they will decide what direction they'll take with the Block 115 project.

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