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Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

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Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby _mp » Sat Oct 20, 2012 1:27 pm

While I understand Chris and Jeff Houden [Palisades Property and Select Publishing, Inc.] have a right to the property they own I am disappointed by their plans to demolish 3 contributing buildings in a National Historic District and the way it was presented to the community by Alder Maniaci, et al.

At the Sept. 10 meeting the architect and Maniaci tried to have us debate aesthetic [ie parking spaces, brick color, and 'style'] issues of the proposed apartment complex when the project had only been 'informationally' brought up to the Urban Design Commission a week before. The actual context and current state of the proposal was brought to light with much questioning and further research. These comical diversionary tactics are secondary to a overall lack of transparency and creativity on the part of the architect and proposers in general.

I was unable to find a .pdf of their initial proposal to the UDC on the City website so I uploaded it http://projectlux.org/img-misc/20120905_IotaPlans.pdf

On October 1, Randy Bruce of Knothe & Bruce Architects, LLC [7601 University Ave Middleton, WI 53562 at rbruce@knothebruce.com or (608)836-3690] applied for the demolition of 3 'contributing' buildings with 296 years of collective Downtown Madison history. This is a waste of scarce resources and negatively impacts the neighborhood’s already compromised historic character.

I want to see what the architect and developer can do with what is already there. Don't demolish. Rehab.

The addresses are 145 Iota Court [1913, "Bachelor Apartments"], 625 N. Henry [1916, "Sigma Nu," A. C. Clas (Prairie School)], and 619 North Henry [1911, "Spooner House," "Home For the Aged"(Sanborn,1942)].

All information courtesy Wisconsin Historical Society, forwardLookout, and City of Madison Website.

-- Michael Pierce
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Re: Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby Stebben84 » Sat Oct 20, 2012 6:46 pm

Those buildings that they want to tear down look like garbage. Does it include that historic looking house on the right side of the second picture? That one would be a shame to loose. Why the hell would anyone want to keep the other ones. Just cause they're old, doesn't mean they're worthy.
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Re: Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby snoqueen » Sat Oct 20, 2012 7:17 pm

I understand attending meetings where Ald. Maniaci is running the show is frustrating. She shows little interest in building consensus or facilitating a genuine back-and-forth between developers and the residents of her district, and little interest in guiding her residents as to how they can make their concerns known. As far as I've seen she never saw a development proposal she didn't like right off the bat and push for. From her point of view, if she can get you arguing about the color of the bricks, she's won. You knew that.

Your recourse is to gather information about the buildings to be torn down (as you have -- good job so far), attend all the committee meetings where they'll discuss this proposal, and present your findings and thoughts. In addition, you can get as many other neighborhood residents as you can to petition and speak up, because numbers do make a difference.

Still, from what I've seen, the developers on this one are doing everything right as far as what committees like to see. They've got proper renderings that take into consideration the sharp lakeshore slope and that show clearly the relative heights of existing and proposed construction. They've done the stepback thing (the "wedding cake") that leaves shorter portions of the new building facing the street to harmonize with surrounding buildings, and put the tall part in the middle where it won't look so incongruous. (Don't forget the tall part is also sometimes the negotiable part.)

They're proposing to save as much of the existing lakeshore building as possible (preserving something is nearly always "greener" than ripping it down and building from scratch), and almost anybody would agree the suggested improvements to the exterior of that ugly little box are better than what we see now.

They're getting rid of surface parking and from what I can tell putting parking underneath with a parking entrance on Henry Street. It's hard to argue with less surface parking, which is a very poor land use by nearly anybody's measure. If fewer (or much smaller) cars are in our future, the basement parking area can become storage or some other appropriate use with little disruption.

The argument I think you need to make -- in addition to any interesting history you can dig up, which always helps -- is that saving and restoring the Henry St buildings and the second Iota Court building is more environmentally acceptable than tearing them down, and could be done attractively and in a way that complements the rest of the proposal. Bringing in pictures of similar restorations in other cities might help your case. Do not neglect the angle about preserving the "urban fabric," though the committees have heard this one already and it's not reliably persuasive, particularly given how chopped-up the Langdon area is already.

I haven't been inside the Henry Street buildings that I can remember (and I might not, in light of what I could have been doing down there in the 1960s). I've been in the Iota Court one many times, and it's pretty sad. Somebody tried to turn porches into rooms (very cold ones), the apartments are little and cramped, and if I remember correctly one of the worst apartments in the world is on the lowest level. At the same time, the exterior (minus the blocked-in porches) has a certain appeal and in a different location it's easy to imagine polishing the place up would result in a little 100-year-old gem.

The same might be true of the Henry St building closer to the lake, which is not unattractive with a symmetrical facade and nice big windows. The second Henry St building (I'm looking on Google Earth) has less appeal from my point of view. (You might have a totally different opinion, which is fine.)

You have an uphill argument here but it's valid on its own terms and the more research you can present, the better your case will be. If you were able, for example, to leverage saving the second Iota Court building and either attaching it to the rest of the new building or carving out some airspace around it, I think you'd have reason to be extremely proud of your accomplishment.

If you present to committees, here are some ground rules:

Be succinct. Rehearse. Know your material. They'll usually give you a time limit (find out what it is ahead of time). Put your best stuff first, and if they like it, you can sometimes get an extension from whoever is running the meeting.

Be prepared for questions, and answer them as helpfully as you can. Try to foresee possible questions. One I can think of is why you think it's better to keep the density as it is instead of going for a much greater population density in a prime residential area. Another might concern land wasted on surface parking, and another might be about the energy efficiency of new construction and new apartments versus older ones. Another might be why not add to the tax base in an area where land values are relatively high and renters plentiful. (Try to find a video record of the UDC preliminary presentation and study it, then avoid being redundant.)

Be courteous to everybody. You are trying to make allies, not enemies. Take the long view -- the people you meet might be helpful to you in the future, if not immediately. Remember the developer is not your enemy. He's offering to take a risk and build something he thinks is attractive and appropriate. You disagree. Do so in a professional manner. Remember: in the room listening to you might be your next employer.

Bring handouts. Look at the pdf the developer provided. Your handout can be just as nice. Provide a link to a digital copy for future reference.

If you can cooperate with other adjacent landlords or property owners (in the case of the coop), you might multiply your effect. Is there good reason to believe somebody's property values might be harmed, or someone's view blocked, by the proposed buildings? Try doing a shadow study with some architectural software. If you can show the new building puts the other side of Iota Court in shadow most of the time, that's powerful. You might at least win a reduction in height.

If they let you, record your presentation and the question period that follows. It's good documentation for your own future, whatever it might be. (Some city meetings are already put in video form, so you might not need to take this step on your own.)

Good luck. I can't think of too many campus-area proposals that have been shot down recently, but that doesn't mean you can't try. If you can articulate your vision for how the Langdon area should look in 25 years, do so. Right now it's happening building-by-building with no overview at all -- which sometimes turns out well but other times results in an endless cycle of disappointment.
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Re: Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby doppel » Sun Oct 21, 2012 10:59 pm

Stu is somewhere salivating like a St. Bernard on a sit\stay before his bowl is put down. Just can't wait to get his nose in it.
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Re: Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby gargantua » Mon Oct 22, 2012 11:21 am

I wish more threads were constructive and helpful like this.
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Re: Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby Stu Levitan » Mon Oct 22, 2012 11:32 am

doppel wrote:Stu is somewhere salivating like a St. Bernard on a sit\stay before his bowl is put down. Just can't wait to get his nose in it.


Ouch. I know I've put on some weight, but I really don't think I've hit St. Bernard status. Maybe golden retriever?

BTW - don't worry your pretty little head over this development. Buildings are in National Historic District, not local.
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Re: Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby jjoyce » Mon Oct 22, 2012 11:52 am

Stebben84 wrote:Those buildings that they want to tear down look like garbage. Does it include that historic looking house on the right side of the second picture? That one would be a shame to loose. Why the hell would anyone want to keep the other ones. Just cause they're old, doesn't mean they're worthy.


The "historic looking house" on the right is the Lodge, an ancient fraternity that has some influential alumni around Madison (Fred Mohs included, I believe).

That house isn't going anywhere.

With the increased density, the most important question: Where will they put all the scooters?
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Re: Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby doppel » Tue Oct 23, 2012 8:56 pm

Stu Levitan wrote:
doppel wrote:Stu is somewhere salivating like a St. Bernard on a sit\stay before his bowl is put down. Just can't wait to get his nose in it.


Ouch. I know I've put on some weight, but I really don't think I've hit St. Bernard status. Maybe golden retriever?

BTW - don't worry your pretty little head over this development. Buildings are in National Historic District, not local.


Sorry Lil Buddy, not trying to imply you are verticaly challenged for your horizontal profile. Just a little too eager to get to what you think the "meat" of the matter is sometimes. Glad to hear it doesn't go in front of an extra layer of local bureaucracy. My pretty, little head is a happier camper tonight.

BTW, big or big boned does not necessarily mean overweight. One of my Saints is fat and one is thin(the thin one actually said "ouch indeed" when I told her what you wrote). But she'll get over it. LOOK, THERE GOES A SQUIRREL!!! A SQUIRREL!!
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Re: Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby _mp » Wed Oct 24, 2012 10:12 am

@snoqueen Thank you for the comments.

Stu Levitan wrote:BTW - don't worry your pretty little head over this development. Buildings are in National Historic District, not local.


Could you please elaborate on this?
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Re: Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby Cooltapes » Wed Oct 31, 2012 7:33 am

Iota Court/ N Henry Street redevelopment meeting taking place on Monday, November 5, 2012 at 7:30 p.m. in Room 326 of the Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St.

Also received a letter from the City Engineering Division. telling us that the City of Madison is planning to reconstruct the 600 block of N Henry St and Iota Ct in 2013. As part of this street reconstruction project, a much larger sanitary sewer must be installed. "To install this main at the depth required several new easements must be acquired by the City. The City plans to condemn these easement in advance of the project and the process will begin shortly. Your property may be affected by these new easements and construction of the sewer main. Specifically the City will be acquiring easements on the properties of 150 Iota Ct and 140 Iota Ct."

I take this to mean it's no longer a question of whether something will be built, but of what will be built.
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Re: Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby Stu Levitan » Wed Oct 31, 2012 8:30 am

_mp wrote:@snoqueen Thank you for the comments.

Stu Levitan wrote:BTW - don't worry your pretty little head over this development. Buildings are in National Historic District, not local.


Could you please elaborate on this?


As it says -- Langdon St is a National Historic District, no Landmarks Commission jurisdiction except for locally designated landmarks.
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Re: Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby Cooltapes » Mon Nov 05, 2012 7:09 pm

Meeting tonight.

I should have much to say on the subject after the meeting, but in the meantime, this is a link I found from some research apparently done in 2008, on the history of 625 N Henry, 619 N Henry and 145 Iota Ct.

http://legistar.cityofmadison.com/attac ... e77cf8.pdf.
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Re: Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby Cooltapes » Mon Nov 05, 2012 7:34 pm

So, who might have done this research, anyway? I just found it, didn't know anything about it or whatever proposals might have been percolating in July of 2008.
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Re: Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby snoqueen » Mon Nov 05, 2012 7:56 pm

Very curious document. Can you tell who put it on Legistar? I think only elected officials and a few others have posting permissions, so who put it up should be discoverable. You might have to call whoever administers Legistar.

I would like to know the effects on development of being in a national historic district. All three of those buildings have some interesting history including the one I thought didn't look like much. I especially wish there was a way to save the Batch (it's old name, I now remember) -- it's lovely.

Please update us after the meeting or provide a link to the minutes. Thanks!
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Re: Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby BenjaminPierce » Mon Nov 05, 2012 8:02 pm

I find that an important point is left out of this discussion, or only touched on lightly--and I am used to seeing this point kept in the back when developers are tearing down yet more buildings in Madison.

Simply: some of the buildings under discussion have, indeed, seen better days...but their defects cannot be blamed on natural decay, for these buildings were put up to last.

Rather, they have not been properly maintained, for two reasons. First, if a building is allowed to depreciate, even if it operates at a profit for the landholder, there are tax benefits to be gained. Secondly, it allows developers, who have no immeidate interest in seeing perfectly good buildings stand, to have an excuse to put their companies to work where that work is not needed--indeed, had many of the buildings that have been torn down in the last twenty years been properly maintained, they would have no pretext at all for continuing in the plague of makework demolition and makework construction that is attatched to so many problems in this town--including the vacancy crisis.

Madisonians are long past due to take a stand here, to insist that perfectly good buildings be refurbished where that is needed and that they be kept in good shape to begin with. Whether or not the incentives in current tax law reflect this saner standard, it is high time that our culture be placed on this civilized, decent, and obvious course...if that means determined political action, even protests against our overweening developers--good!
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