CohoMadison Cohousing Community

Tentative plans for a cohousing community at the Union Corners site on Madison's east side include a mix of 46 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom residential condominium units across three floors and common areas such as a multipurpose room, kitchen, library and sitting area, kids playroom and laundry facilities. 

Courtesy of CohoMadison Cohousing Community

An affordable cohousing project proposed for Winnebago Street on Madison's east side is preparing to begin the city approval process with tentative plans for construction to begin in a year if all goes smoothly.

Developers and the CohoMadison Cohousing Community are proposing to build a three-story apartment building on the 2000 block of Winnebago Street. The facility would include artist studio space in addition to a new home for Madison Circus Space on an adjoining parcel of land.

Accipiter Properties co-founders Adam Chern and John Young own the Winnebago Street parcels and previously attempted to partner with Movin’ Out, Inc. for a housing development, but lacked funding. After a developer approached them in 2016 about buying the properties, Chern and Young decided to look into a cohousing project for the site.

“Instead of just selling the land to a developer to … do the same sort of cookie cutter thing we’ve seen around the city, we could find a way to do a development that allowed artists and other creative people to stay, to not be displaced by the development,” Chern said.

CohoMadison, Inc., grew out of strong neighborhood interest in seeing mixed-income cohousing in the Union Corners project, to develop the project. The proposed Union Corners ultimately cohousing plan fell through.

Cohousing is a type of collaborative living space in which residents are active participants in the design and management of their neighborhood. It's like a co-op, but with families living in separate units instead of one big house. Residents often share tasks related to upkeep of the property, gardening and community gatherings.

“It is housing for people who want to live in communities with modest private spaces and generous shared spaces,” Chern said.

Neighbors and Madison residents are invited to attend a 7 p.m. meeting on the project Wednesday, March 22, at Trinity Lutheran Church, 1904 Winnebago St.

Project Manager Greg Rosenberg said cohousing results from a participatory design process from the people who hope to live in the building. About 50 households are interested in owning a condominium in the cohousing building, he said.

“The community is already together before they move in,” Rosenberg said.

Plans for the cohousing community tentatively include a mix of 46 one, two and three bedroom residential condominium units and common areas such as a multipurpose room, kitchen, library and sitting area, kids playroom and laundry facilities. A courtyard area for recreation and socializing is slated for the back of the building.

Twelve of the units would be designated for buyers at or below 80 percent of the area median income and 11 would be targeted for buyers between 81 and 120 percent of the area median income. The remaining units would be sold at market rate. 

In addition to the residential units, ten additional non-residential units would be exclusively used for artists to replace space in the current Winnebago Studios, where about 24 artists use 17 studios. The development would include 4,100 square feet of affordable artist studio spaces to minimize the displacement of artists currently working in the aging studio facility at 2048 Winnebago St.  

“I look at this as the world’s only mixed-income cohousing, artist studio and circus space project in the world,” Rosenberg said. “I have a lot of confidence.”

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The development would also include underground car and bike parking for residents and shared use of the surface parking lot with 25 percent of the spaces reserved for CohoMadison residents and the remaining spaces designated for use of the adjoining parcel.

The approximately $13 million project plans to utilize several types of funding including a tax increment financing loan from the city, subsidy funding from the city’s Community Development Division, downpayment grants from the Federal Home Loan and, grants and donations from foundations and individual donors in addition to partnerships with local nonprofit housing organizations. 

If all goes well, the project expects to begin construction in March or April of 2018 with buyers moving in by the following April. 

“We try and stay as confident as we can every day,” Chern said about the project proposal. “It’s bit of a roller coaster. The best thing you can do is try and keep your chin up and keep moving forward.”

If approved, the CohoMadison project would add to the city’s other cohousing sites at Troy Gardens on the city’s north side, Arboretum Cohousing on Erin Street and Village Cohousing Community on Mound Street

“I think it’s sort of surprising that the east side of Madison, which is the side of Madison you think would get the first cohousing community is one of the last to actually get cohousing,” Chern said.

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Abigail Becker joined The Capital Times in 2016, where she primarily covers city and county government. She previously worked for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the Wisconsin State Journal.