The developers of a planned hotel on State Street originally proposed demolishing existing buildings to make way for a modern style building.
But months of meetings and feedback from neighbors and city officials convinced the development team to turn to a more traditional design that will retain part of an original building.
The hotel would take the place of two buildings: 122 State St., the six-story home of The Fountain bar and restaurant and office space, and 118 State St., formerly the two-story bar Winedown.
The hotel developer is Ascendant Holdings Real Estate of Madison and Milwaukee, and Central Properties of Madison. Provenance Hotels, a "lifestyle" hotel company based in Portland, Oregon, will run the $30 million development.
At the first neighborhood meeting in March, the development team presented a sleek design that would demolish, rather than preserve or replicate, the two existing buildings on site. Several audience members questioned the decision not to replicate the original building.
Eric Nordeen, co-founder of Ascendant Holdings Real Estate, told the audience that a plan to retain designs of existing buildings was untenable.
The building at 122 State Street began as the city’s YWCA in 1917, and the original facade was covered with stucco in the 1970s. The development team removed some of the stucco overlay and found the stonework underneath was damaged and chipped away.
Unable to restore that facade, the developer considered designing the building in the historic style of the original, but decided against this because “the risk of creating something new to look old is hard to execute and can come off as contrived,” Nordeen said in March.
“The concern is it comes out (looking like) Disney to fake something historic,” Kate Buska, director of public relations for Provenance Hotels, said at the meeting. “The historic stuff is just not there on the building.”
But after meeting with downtown neighbors, city planning staff and the Urban Design Commission over the past few months, the designers have reached “a middle ground,” Nordeen said.
“The design we have today is not a historic design, it uses a more traditional language,” Nordeen said. “It’s less modern for sure.”
Neighborhood groups and elected officials wanted to know whether the 118 State Street facade could be preserved. While that site has not been designated a local landmark, the building next door, which houses Michelangelo's Coffee House, is a landmark.
The new plans retain and restore the original brick facade at 118 State Street, which Buska said in an email “allows for a more sympathetic relationship” with Michelangelo's.
“Once we made that decision it became apparent that the overall design language had to change,” Nordeen said, which “changed all sides of the hotel for better.”
The original design called for a monolithic facade on State Street. The new design breaks down the massing, so while the front of the 118 State St. portion will remain, the rest of the building will have a different look. This gives the feel of more than one storefront, and “better respects the rhythm of buildings” on the street, Nordeen said.
Nordeen said he’s very happy with the direction of the design.
“Although it’s a long process, we think we’re ending up with a better design,” he said.
The design is slated to appear before the city's Urban Design Commission on Oct. 24 and the Plan Commission on Nov. 5.