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Thursday, December 25, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 40.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
The Daily
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Madison officials hold out hope for compromise on Block 100 development
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City commissioners might be more receptive to the project if the developers can rework the plans to save the Schubert Building.
City commissioners might be more receptive to the project if the developers can rework the plans to save the Schubert Building.
Credit:Joe Tarr

Is there room for a compromise on the 100 block of State Street?

That's what the Urban Design Commission will try to find out on Wednesday evening (PDF), as it once again tackles the controversial project neighboring the Overture Center.

Overture's benefactors, Jerome Frautschi and Pleasant Rowland, have proposed a $10 million development for the 100 block. The proposal calls for five buildings to be razed, with an office building and private plaza constructed on the Fairchild side of the block, facing the Overture Center.

Facades on State Street would be reconstructed in a similar architectural style, with one building, the historic Castle & Doyle Building, 125 State St., largely preserved.

But the most controversial part of the project is the corner of Mifflin and Fairchild Streets, where the developers would carve out a private plaza. To do so, they would raze the landmark Schubert building, 120 W. Mifflin, and its neighbor, the Stark or Fairchild building, 122 W. Mifflin St. The latter is not a landmark, but is prized by preservationists and is in remarkably good shape.

Several architects say replacing the building with a plaza is really bad urban design. But the developers have said if they can't have their plaza, they'll abandon the project.

UDC chairman Dick Wagner likes the idea of the plaza, saying "open space adds to the liveliness of the outer ring."

But many of his colleagues are unenthusiastic. Commissioner Dawn O'Kroley has called the plaza a "deal breaker" for her. Ald. Marsha Rummel, a UDC member, says developers "have to wow us.... So far, an eroded corner doesn't do that for me, as much as a building that could be reused and become a vibrant place."

Wagner says there are there are two big issues the UDC must settle: "The question of the open space at the corner" and then "the design of the building."

City commissioners might be more receptive to the project if the developers can rework the plans to save the Schubert Building.

Ald. Mike Verveer calls it "sacrifice one building to save the other." Although he has not taken a position on this solution, he adds "If there's some way of saving the Schubert building, that would likely go a long way towards having the entire proposal approved in large measure."

Whether the UDC will vote on anything Wednesday remains to be seen. "I hope we make some progress," Wagner says. "I'm not exactly sure what the motions might be."

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