‘A truly elegant solution’: Key pieces of Judge Doyle Square project sail through Plan Commission

LISA SPECKHARD | The Capital Times | Apr 25, 2017

The Judge Doyle Square project downtown is ambitious, with towering 12-story structures, over 9,000 square feet of retail, 350 apartment units, a 250-room hotel and hundreds of parking spaces.

It’s a huge and somewhat complex project involving both public and private development. But on Monday, several aspects of the project received unanimous approval from the Madison Plan Commission after relatively little discussion.

Ken Opin, chair of the commission, said that while he believed the project was “the largest single application that has ever been before the Plan Commission,” he considered it “a truly elegant solution to a truly complex set of problems.”

Opin and others credited the ease of approval to the collaborative work of the project manager, developer, architect, city, alder and neighborhood.

“The fact that there is no opposition to a project of this magnitude says a tremendous amount about the due diligence that everyone involved in it has done. So thank you,” Opin said.

“We’ve had much, much smaller projects come to us with hours of discussion,” said Ald. Steve King, a member of the commission.

The commission granted approval to zoning map amendments, conditional uses, a demolition permit and certified survey maps.

The $170 million plan will redevelop two blocks between East Wilson and East Doty streets, including the Government East parking garage and the area to the east of the Madison Municipal Building. The Madison Common Council approved the plan in July of 2016.

The project, proposed by Beitler Real Estate, spans Block 88 and Block 105 of the city. It’s addressed as 200 S. Pinckney St.

Block 105 is the current site of the Government East parking garage. The plans would demolish the garage and replace it with private development, including a 204-unit apartment building, a 250-room hotel, 1,150 square feet of retail and multiple levels of underground parking for the hotel and apartments.

Block 88 is the site of the Madison Municipal building, and would become the site of the new Government East garage with about 560 stalls. The garage would provide five levels of underground parking.

Private development would sit on top of this garage, including two levels (144 stalls) of above-ground parking, a 148-unit apartment building, about 8,000 square feet of retail and a bike center. Both buildings would be 12 stories.

The project also includes community rooms, indoor electronic driving ranges, a bicycle center with possible showering facilities and locker rooms.

Commission members expressed concerns about various issues, including what Commissioner Michael Rewey called the “dull blank wall” of the west facade of the Block 88 building and the possibility of bird strikes on the glass buildings.

On both counts, Paul Beitler, president at Beitler, said the issues had already been brought up and discussed, and defended the facade that Rewey called “ugly.”

“Our architect doesn’t see it that way, and he’s one of the greatest architects in the world, and I’m going to go with what he said,” Beitler said.

Peter Osland, representing Capitol Neighborhoods, said the neighborhood was generally supportive of the plan which he said would “enliven the downtown,” but asked for eight additional conditions. Osland said these conditions were details that would help create “the best possible urban environment.” One condition concerned the size of the parking garage entrances.

Neighbors had suggested that the Wilson entrance to the public parking garage be reduced to two lanes, rather than three. The city of Madison Parking Utility said the three lanes were “imperative for daily functions,” but could possibly be narrowed by removing motorcycle lanes.

Ald. Mike Verveer urged the commission to approve the project, incorporating the Capitol Neighborhood conditions as well as the city staff recommendations.

The Plan Commission approved the project with all the recommended city and neighborhood conditions.

“I’m so pleased that this project is finally moving forward, and I think this is a great project for this site,” said Commissioner Brad Cantrell, who said he supported it “wholeheartedly.”

The project must return to the Urban Design Commission for final approval and the City Council.

Two new downtown apartments were also approved with no opposition, including a 21-unit mixed-use complex with 3,000 square feet of residential space at 707-713 Johnson St. and an eight-unit apartment building and a renovation of three family residences at 201-205 N. Blount St.

 

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