An aerial view of the Madison College culinary building, from the northwest.
At a meeting of downtown Madison's Mansion Hill neighborhood association Monday night, representatives from Madison College and design company Strang presented preliminary plans for a new culinary education center located on the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and West Johnson Street.
While just nine residents attended the meeting, the possible expansion was greeted with praise from most.
"This is going to be fun to have downtown," said neighborhood steering committee member Gene Devitt.
Devitt said Strang has been "easy to work with" and open to criticism from the steering committee, and many suggestions were reflected in the plans presented Monday.
Originally, the expanded building was expected to take up 10,000 square feet, but Madison College public affairs manager Tim Casper said the plan was reduced to 8,250 square feet to accommodate some recommendations made by other committees.
Strang principal architect Peter Tan, who presented the plans at the meeting, highlighted large windowed areas on the street level, which will allow pedestrians walking by to look into the demonstration kitchen located on that floor.
The opportunity to bring the culinary school back to the downtown area presented itself because of a "competitive bidding climate," which led to other building projects coming in under budget, according to Casper. The budget for the new building, which will house programs and courses related to culinary arts, baking and pastry arts, hotel and restaurant management, and meeting and event management, will be $8 million.
One issue that proved contentious was the plan for deliveries. Currently, the plan calls for trucks to come in off Dayton Street, where deliveries are already made to the current Madison College building. However, the Concourse Hotel is also on Dayton and some residents at the meeting expressed concern about traffic problems caused by trucks pulling in and out of the delivery zone.
One solution offered was to have the hotel and college coordinate delivery times to avoid overcrowding, which Casper said Madison College would be willing to talk to the Concourse about.
Madison College director of facility services Mike Stark assured the residents that most deliveries would happen in off-peak hours, usually before 8 a.m.
A second point of contention came when resident Fred Mohs questioned the design of the roof, which he worried would draw attention away from the rest of the building.
"This building shouldn't be all about 'what's this thing on the roof?'" he said. "That can be an effective feature or a fiasco."
But after Tan showed views of the structure from other angles and assured Mohs they "have the same goals" in the design of the roof, Mohs was "feeling better."
The next steps for the project include approval from both the Urban Design Commission and the Wisconsin State Technical College Board. Casper hopes both of those committees give final approval at their July meetings.
If approved, the project will begin in November or December of this year, with plans to open for classes in January 2014.