Nearly all of the Alders agreed with a development plan that would take open space just west of North Fish Hatchery Road and fill it with nearly 180 apartments.
There was one exception, namely from Ald. Jay Allen (D-3), who previously lived next to the open area being considered for redevelopment, who felt the city and landowner, Madison-based commercial property managers EJ Plesko, should have done more planning with the larger neighborhood in mind.
At the Common Council meeting on Tuesday, February 22, the Alders voted 7-1 to approve a rezoning of the property that would allow developers Fitchburg Commercial Properties, LLC and EJ Plesko and Associates to continue moving forward in the development process, with Allen as the only vote against. The same proposal narrowly received a recommendation from the Planning Commission the previous week, as Mayor Aaron Richardson and Commissioners Steven Heller and Ed Kinney pleaded for more property opportunities in the area.
The 5.3-acre parcel of land — which sits just west of the strip mall that contains Dollar Tree and La Concha — is currently undeveloped outside of a shed on the property, and the The $33.3 million apartment complex would be adjacent to the city’s The Hub project, a two-phase community park and community center development on either side of Traceway Drive.
Based on preliminary designs, the project would house 16 bachelor apartments, 77 one-bedroom, 70 two-bedroom and 15 three-bedroom, with first floor townhouses with access doors to the street. The development is designed to include 273 parking spaces, 180 of which are underground, and has a rooftop space.
The land for the project is within the city’s Tax Growth District No. 10 and is described in the North Fish Hatchery Road 2019 Vision and Implementation Document as an area that should be an “urban and commercial frontage.” which would include new residential and mixed-use developments. at different income levels.
EJ Plesko vice president and chief development officer David Gevers told Alders the company purchased the land, which previously held five apartment buildings that have since been torn down, out of foreclosure in 2005. The company also owns apartment complexes nearby. The Highline, The Pines and Fairways Seniors Apartments and rents to approximately 10% of the city’s residents.
Gevers said the proposed apartment complex should have market-rate rents as the company tries to infuse a variety of income levels into the neighborhood, which has traditionally featured low-income housing.
“Since that time, we have invested a lot of energy, resources and money in fixing the neighborhood, fixing the property,” he said. “We see this next project as really the next step for this neighborhood. We care deeply about this neighborhood and our residents…we think it’s a good example of urban infill in a neighborhood that needs investment.
Allen said that while he didn’t like the project, he rather wished the Fish Hatchery Road Corridor had done more comprehensive planning for the whole area, given the amount of land that EJ Plesko owns in the neighborhood. He acknowledged that Fish Hatchery Road had had plans and vision studies carried out twice in the past two decades – the most recent describing the plot as one ripe for redevelopment – but would like to see a more robust plan which would also reinvent other areas that are currently occupied by apartment buildings.
“The reality is that Fish Hatchery Road is going to change, and a lot of the things that are there now won’t be there forever,” he said. “I’d rather see things done with a better concept plan for what the future might be. When you put a building like this where it’s going to be, that’s fine, except it limits your potential for development projects. redevelopment on adjacent properties.
Allen’s concerns for more robust neighborhood planning did not emerge later in the meeting, when the Alders approved a rezoning for a proposed 170-unit apartment complex just north and east of Fish Hatchery. Road.
Gevers responded, saying he felt that even posting discussions about tearing down apartment buildings people currently live in for future redevelopments causes unnecessary anxiety for residents.
Aldus. Randy Udell (D-4) worried that holding EJ Plesko to a different standard than other developers considering projects along Fish Hatchery Road would create a divide in the type of housing available.
“We approve projects on the east side of Fish Hatchery, but we don’t approve the same type of projects on the west side,” he said. “To me what we’re basically doing with Fish Hatchery Road is like ‘which side of the tracks do you live on? You have the affluent apartments on the east side and the ones with affordable housing on the west side.
Other apartment complexes have sprung up along Fish Hatchery Road over the past three years. The Highline Senior Living apartment complex on the south side of Traceway Drive opened in May 2020; across the street, the Terrace Point complex has brought an additional 157 apartments over four floors and 10,000 feet of retail space, and another 170 units are in the early stages of development for new construction on Ochalla Drive.
Construction of the Traceway Drive development, if approved, would begin in June 2022 and is expected to be completed in July 2023, and would overlap some construction on the neighboring hub.