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Frank Productions plans a major music venue along the Capitol East corridor (updated)
Madison's next stage
The venue will primarily feature live music.

Frank Productions announced today that it is planning a 46,000-square-foot music venue in the 1000 block of East Washington Avenue, next to Breese Stevens Field.

The venue, which does not yet have a name, will be part of a larger mixed-use development project by Stone House Development.

Fred Frank, chief executive officer of Frank Productions, says the venue will have capacity of more than 2,000 people (including ground floor and balcony) and will include a VIP lounge as well as Frank Productions' offices.

Richard B. Arnesen, vice president of Stone House, says the first phase of the multi-use project will include 65 units of affordable housing on Mifflin Street, the Frank Productions venue, a parking ramp, and offices. Several structures will be razed, including the Madison Dairy Produce Co. building.

Arnesen said his company was interested in the project because "It's almost an entire block. It's not easy to find that much developable land on the isthmus."

The company will likely submit plans to the city in September with construction likely begin next summer.

"It sounds like [the project has] great potential and is a good mix of uses for that site," Ald. Ledell Zellers says. "Their intent is to adhere to the plans for the area in terms of height and setbacks."

"It looks pretty exciting," Zellers adds. "There will be a robust discussion in the neighborhood, but I think neighbors are likely to be pleased."

Frank says the company is excited to be part of the resurgent Capitol East corridor, which has seen numerous projects of late. The 12-story Constellation apartment building opened last year on the 700 block. A grocery store and more housing is planned for the 800 block. And a high-tech incubator is planned for the 900 block. A campaign named Willy Wash is also seeking to promote music-oriented development along the corridor.

"Being lifelong Madisonians, seeing what's happening in the east corridor is very exciting," Frank says. "It really is the gateway into Madison. There are two great neighborhoods [bordering] East Washington."

As a concert promoter, Frank says he's worked in numerous venues and is excited to be designing one that will be enjoyable to both fans and artists.

"We have the opportunity to go to many different venues across the country, so we have a feel for what's good and not so good," he says.

"Logistically, it's going to be built to near perfection," he says. "When fans leave this venue, they'll have had a great experience," he says. "When artist leaves, they'll know that Madison is great town [to perform in]."

The venue will primarily feature music acts "of all genres," Frank says, but adds that the Frank Productions team "see the space also being used for comedy, corporate functions and potential weddings."

Last year, Frank Productions was vying to buy the historic Orpheum Theater, but were beaten to the punch by Gus Paras, a longtime restaurateur and owner of the Comedy Club on State.

Since buying the theater, Paras has signed a deal with Live Nation, Frank says, meaning Frank can no longer book shows at the Orpheum. Frank Productions' last show in the venue will be the Pixies this October.

Frank says he doesn't know whether he would have gone ahead with the new venture if he'd been allowed to continue booking shows in the Orpheum.

Paras says that he's not worried about the competition, provided the city doesn't give his competitor tax incremental financing.

"I will be very interested to see if [the city gives] him TIF money, because that will hurt," Paras says. "Otherwise it's business."

"As long as they don't get money from the city, I won't be worried" he says. "In fact it will be better for Madison because there will be more things to do."

[Editor's note: This report was updated at 5:19 p.m. with comments from Stone House Development vice president Richard B. Arnesen, and corrected to clarify the proposed construction timeline for the development and to reflect that Car-X Tire and Auto is not part of the proposed project site and will not be razed.]

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