Downtown Madison residents and stakeholders agree: they like the new designs for a proposed hotel on State Street much better than the original plans presented at a neighborhood meeting in March.
“The (designs are) not even the same animal anymore,” Ken Gowland, an architect for the project, said.
At a neighborhood meeting Tuesday night, no one had anything bad to say about the design. But other concerns about traffic, parking and most of all, the nine-story height, linger.
The hotel is slated for 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 meeting was sponsored by Ald. Mike Verveer, whose district includes State Street, and Ald. Ledell Zellers, who represents the neighboring district. After the meeting, they both complimented the development team on their work to improve the design.
“To the development team’s credit, the design has progressed quite nicely,” Verveer said. “I still wish that they could be more creative and do something to mitigate the height and massing of the building.”
The $25 million project would create a nine-story, 110- to 120-room hotel with a ground-floor restaurant, open-air terrace and rooftop bar. The plans would demolish the building at 122 State St. but preserve part of the building at 118 State St.
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.
Kraig Kalashian Architecture and Design, based in New Jersey, and MetroStudio, based in New Orleans, are the architects of the project.
At the first neighborhood meeting, the development team presented a sleek, glass-heavy 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 buildings.
But the team said that they 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,” Eric Nordeen, co-founder of Ascendant Holdings Real Estate, said in March.
But in meetings with the neighborhood, committees and city staff, the same concerns came up repeatedly, Gowland said Tuesday: the large flat building didn’t fit into the rhythm and language of State Street, with its narrower store fronts. It didn’t pick up on the historic character of the area, and the modern, metal materials stood out.
The new plans call for a stone building a facade broken up into a “smaller series of buildings,” Gowland said. They also retain and restore the original brick facade at 118 State St., which “allows for a more sympathetic relationship” with next-door Michelangelo's Coffee House, a landmarked building.
“I think this is a much more interesting building than what we started from,” Gowland said.
Although residents at Tuesday's meeting agreed the building looks better, they, along with city staff, still have concerns about its height. The building would step-back on the fourth story on the State Street side and again at the eighth story. But zoning only allows for six total stories.
“Height’s the thing they’re worried about. Height’s the big issue and the precedent that it will set,” Zellers said.
Kevin Firchow, city planner, was at the meeting and said going that far over the height was “a pretty significant ask.” City staff has filed a report saying they can’t support the proposal because of the nine-story height.
The neighborhood steering committee from Capitol Neighborhoods, Inc., wrote to the city and said that while there were “differences of opinion” among members, some were concerned about the height and didn’t think it was compatible with surrounding buildings. Others said the Concourse Hotel at 167 feet and 30 on The Square at 128 feet provide the needed context to the proposed 119-foot hotel.
The steering committee was also worried about precedent as there were similar buildings on State Street “that could just as easily make a request for greater height.”
At the meeting, Jeff Vercauteren, an attorney for the development team, said the development is seeking Planned Development (PD) zoning, which is designed to allow for zoning flexibility. There shouldn’t be a concern about precedent, he said, because “each Planned Development district is unique to the site.”
Residents also brought up concerns about parking, as there will be none on the site. Nordeen said that the team has been studying the nearby AC Hotel (although the AC has onsite parking) as well as other hotels that Provenance runs without parking in dense urban areas. He noted that over the years, demand for hotel parking has declined.
The hotel plans to use a valet service to park cars at about 70 spaces leased from nearby parking decks. Nordeen estimated the hotel will use an average of 40 spaces a night, with 60 spaces a night at peak demand. Hotels use parking primarily after 5 p.m., Nordeen said, and many downtown parking garages are only full during office hours.
In their comments, members of the neighborhood steering committee noted that they have concerns about the valet parking and loading dock for the hotel, both of which are located on North Carroll Street. City traffic engineers have some significant concerns about traffic and parking, Verveer said.
The project will appear before the Urban Design Commission Wednesday and is slated to appear before the Plan Commission on Nov. 20 and the City Council on Dec. 5.
The design application says the team plans to start construction around June 2018 and finish by November 2019.