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Friday, July 25, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 71.0° F  Overcast
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City staff favors Gebhardt proposal for 800 block of East Washington Avenue

A unique feature of the Gebhardt proposal is an urban rooftop farm.
Credit:Gebhardt Development
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The process for the development of the 800 block of East Washington Avenue continues, with Madison's planning and economic development staff recommending the Gebhardt project, one of three proposals, to the selection committee in a meeting Thursday.

That doesn't necessarily mean the Gebhardt proposal (PDF) will be chosen when the committee makes its decision on Tuesday, but it is a strong element for the group to consider. Steven Cover, director of the Department of Planning & Community & Economic Development, believes the Gebhardt proposal offers the most for future development in the corridor.

"We are looking for a catalyst here, generating new energy and development interest on East Washington," Cover says. "We felt the Gebhardt proposal was probably the best in doing this."

Cover cites the architectural design, and the use of mixed-use and sustainable opportunities as putting that proposal ahead of the others. A unique feature of the Gebhardt proposal is an urban rooftop farm, which architect Chris Gosch says the group is excited about and thinks it could be a "true asset for the community."

Local resident David Waugh agrees, telling the committee he thinks, "the rooftop farm and the sustainability industry focus is a great example of the business we need to be interested in."

And while no decision as officially reached after a lengthy meeting Thursday, committee member and Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association president Joe Lusson thinks that's fine.

"I'm glad we are taking the time so we can review and ask some more questions without the pressure of making a decision," says Lusson.

The CD Smith proposal (PDF) is the second favorite of city staff, with a similar goal of high-rise density and mixed use. It differs in offering a smaller grocery store than the Gebhardt plan, in partnership with Fresh Madison Market. Gosch calls the larger Metcalfe's Market in his plan "truly full service."

The T. Wall Enterprises proposal (PDF) offers a clear difference from the other two proposals, focusing more on low-rise buildings and offering an architectural design meant to mirrorBreese Stevens Field, located across the street. The other two have taller buildings and more modern designs.

An issue raised at the meeting regards the future use of tax incremental financing to make any of the three proposals happen. Terrence Wall points out that his proposal would require less funding.

"We have a proposal before you that works," Wall says. "It was a different approach and our architecture addresses the neighborhood very well."

The process continues with another meeting Tuesday, where the committee will most likely select a proposal to move forward to the Common Council. Joe Lusson says that while he is still undecided, he is thrilled, "[that] we will get a good grocery store no matter what."

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