Pheasant Branch Crossing District

A rendering from the city of Middleton's concept plan for its historic Pheasant Branch district. 

In 2015, after two years of expensive and labor-intensive renovations, the historic Stamm House on Century Avenue in Middleton reopened as a restaurant.

The new Stamm is drawing people to the area, according to Middleton officials, and the city wants to encourage similar revitalization. The city recently released a concept plan for the area around the Stamm House, a historic settlement known as Pheasant Branch. The plan aims to play up the settlement's rich history and draw pedestrian and bike traffic.

The concept plan will be open for public comment at the next Middleton Plan Commission meeting, on Tuesday, Aug. 22 at 8 p.m. at the Middleton City Hall.

The Stamm House has been a hotel, store, post office and rumored Underground Railroad stop, and it’s just one aspect of the settlement’s rich history. The settlement, platted in the 1850s, was located on a stagecoach route and was a contender to be the state’s capitol. It houses several buildings built in the 1800s that are still standing, including a blacksmith shop and school.

The new concept plan sketches out ideas for housing and commercial projects, along with environmental improvements like a new trail head and stormwater management system.

This is an expansion of a former concept plan, said Eileen Kelley, planning director for Middleton, and this one will lay out design guidelines and consider establishing a historic district.

It targets four areas: the immediate surroundings of Stamm House, the Pheasant Branch trailhead, existing commercial buildings along Century Avenue and new housing adjacent to the Pheasant Branch conservancy.

The Stamm House “is feeding a local food passion among it patrons and drawing new guests,” the city concept plan notes. The city wants to encourage the development of other projects that will add to this atmosphere, offering suggestions that include a boutique hotel, bike shops or a general store. It notes that the historic stone blacksmith shop on Branch Street “offers one opportunity for creative reuse of a historic structure.”

The plan calls for a facelift of the current streetscape along Century Avenue, adding outdoor seating and bicycle parking, with businesses encouraged to “renovate with historic architectural features.”

The document highlights the importance of upgrading stormwater management on the street, which currently flows directly into Pheasant Branch Creek, bringing sediment and phosphorus load with it.

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It also calls for the creation of a new Pheasant Branch trailhead with public restrooms and parking. Two single-family residences currently sit on the site, and the city has received a grant to eventually purchase the properties.

Finally, the plan discusses two housing projects, one of which has already been proposed and a future project to take over the site of an old grocery store on Century Avenue, giving residents views of the Pheasant Branch Conservancy and Lake Mendota.

The city noted that this is simply a concept plan and not a commitment to any development or zoning. Instead, if approved, it would act as a guideline by which to judge future development proposals and projects, Kelley said.

“This can kind of help pull everything together and make sure we’re not missing opportunities,” she said.

If approved by the city’s Plan Commission, the concept plan would go to the City Council for approval, likely in September, Kelley said.