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Urban Land Interests project rendering

Urban Land Interests proposed mixed-use project would offer at least four retail spaces with separate entrances along Monroe Street.


Prominent developer pitches retail, housing

Investment continues to pour into trendy Monroe Street with a developer now proposing a five-story, mixed-use project in the heart of the Near West Side neighborhood.

Urban Land Interests, which has done some of the biggest projects on Capitol Square and upscale housing Downtown, is proposing to demolish the Associated Bank building, 1720 Monroe St., for new construction that would offer 16,000 square feet of first-floor retail space topped by up to 68 apartments.

ULI would preserve a house with two apartments at 625 S. Spooner St.

“We see a pretty incredible opportunity to add some vibrancy to the neighborhood,” said ULI’s Anne Morrison.

The project would be set amid a lively strip of small retail businesses, coffee shops, bars and restaurants, and across the street from the decade-old, $22.9 million, six-story Monroe Commons project, which includes a 12,000-square-foot Trader Joe’s grocery, 53 condos and a 129-space parking garage at 1864 Monroe St.

“There are very few opportunities on Monroe Street to really add density,” Morrison said. “This is one.”

The Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhood Association has not taken a formal position on the proposal and is working with ULI on project details, association vice president Heather Marley said.

Ald. Sara Eskrich, 13th District, could not be reached for comment.

ULI expects to make an informational presentation to the city’s Urban Design Commission on Nov. 8.

The proposed building would have a new classical design with an exterior predominantly brick with stone detailing. It would have a common room and outdoor area on the fifth floor with features that could include a piano and library.

ULI wants to restore neighborhood retailing to the block, which once featured a mix of retail establishments including Capitol City Comics, Burnie’s Rock Shop, Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry, two gas stations, a cleaner, beauty salon and barber shop, Morrison said.

The current building, originally Randall State Bank and later Associated Bank, was built in 1997 with the building and ¾-acre property valued at $1.1 million for 2017.

The proposed retail space would include at least four distinct uses, possibly a restaurant, with separate entrances for first-floor commercial spaces following the sloping grade of the street, Morrison said.

“We’re delighted to have a quality developer like ULI doing the building,” said Carol “Orange” Schroeder, owner of Orange Tree Imports, 1721 Monroe St., and chair of the Monroe Street Merchants Association.

Schroeder said that the street has many locally owned businesses and that she welcomes the proposal for smaller retail spaces likely with local ownership. “I think it’s very well in keeping with the goals of the merchants’ association,” she said.

The project also meets a great demand for housing on and around Monroe Street, Morrison said. Despite its proximity to UW-Madison, the proposed mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units is designed to attract residents who want to downsize but not leave the neighborhood, and to serve smaller families looking to find a place there, she said.

The redevelopment will include an underground parking garage with a minimum of 68 spaces, and a small surface lot to serve commercial uses.

The ULI proposal follows investments in significant projects.

Gregg Shimanski is now building a $5 million, four-story, mixed-use building with 5,000 square feet of first-floor commercial space and 44 housing units on upper floors at 1603-1609 Monroe St. Associated Bank is slated to relocate to a smaller space in that project.

Hotel Red, 1501 Monroe St., recently won city approvals to add three stories and 39 rooms to the existing four-story hotel, which has 48 rooms. The expansion includes a rooftop bar and lounge.

The street itself has a coming makeover.

Mayor Paul Soglin’s proposed budget for 2018 includes $14.9 million to reconstruct Monroe Street from Regent to Leonard streets and resurface it from Leonard Street to Odana Road.

The city is also refining improvements to Crazylegs Plaza, bounded by Monroe and Regent streets and South Breese Terrace.

If approvals are secured, ULI hopes to begin construction at the same time street reconstruction begins in spring 2018, and to open in summer 2019.


Dean Mosiman covers Madison city government for the Wisconsin State Journal.