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Wednesday, January 28, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 32.0° F  Overcast
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City committee recommends Gebhardt/Metcalfe's proposal for 800 block of East Washington
The Gebhardt proposal includes a rooftop farm and a 50,000 square foot grocery store.
Credit:Gebhardt Development

A city committee charged with vetting development proposals for the 800 block of East Washington Avenue chose the Gebhardt/Metcalfe's plan at a Tuesday meeting. The proposal had been recommended by city staff last week, and also has the support of the adjacent neighborhood association.

The reputation of Metcalfe's, a local supermarket chain with stores at the Hilldale Shopping Center and near West Towne Mall, and the relatively large 50,000 square foot grocery store in the plan played a large role in the proposal's success, with community members frequently calling attention to it both in meetings and informally.

"Metcalfe's really caught people's attention, and folks are thrilled to walk to a full size grocery store," says 800 Block North committee member and Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association president Joe Lusson.

Other features of the proposal include an urban rooftop farm, apartments as well as owner occupied condos and partnerships with UW-Madison, Sustain Dane and the Underground Food Collective.

This marks the second large development project on East Washington spearheaded by Gebhardt. The firm is currently building The Constellation on the 700 block.

Architect Chris Gosch says the firm is "very excited to continue to contribute to the reinvigoration of the east side," and adds that "we are very close to making some major announcements on the 700 block and working with other interested parties to fill up the 800 block concurrently."

The Constellation is also a mixed-use building with apartments, townhouses and commercial space. Residents are comfortable with the imprint Gosch's architectural vision will leave on the near east side.

"[Gosch] is going to have his design sensibility shape these blocks and I like his design sensibility," says Ald. Marsh Rummel, who represents the district adjacent to and just to the south of the developments.

Rummel says that these projects fit into the vision of how to take a "former industrial block and re-green this area sustainably."

Otto Gebhardt, a principal at the firm, says that the focus on local sustainability is something that has been attracting people to his firm's vision of East Washington Avenue. In particular, he says, "both the commercial and residential tenants are very excited about the fact that we are renting to very specific local establishments, to add a unique feel to The Constellation and the next project."

The selection of the Gebhardt proposal did come with a few amendments. Should the proposal fail to materialize, the CD Smith team would be available to take over. Many of the committee members speak highly of the CD Smith proposal and hope that firm will be involved in other opportunities on the east side in the future. Other additions were guidance for the city staff in negotiations with Gebhardt on issues of sustainability and housing affordability.

Rummel also proposed an amendment for contract neutrality with commercial workers in the building. This was spurred by an ongoing collective bargaining dispute between Metcalfe's and United Food and Commercial Workers.

"Metcalfe's is a well regarded local food economy, but we want to make sure it's sustainable," Rummel says.

The proposal will advance to the Common Council for approval. After that, city staff and the Gebhardt team will negotiate land use and financing before the full plan is brought before the council for final approval.

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