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Sunday, June 23, 2024
Highlander House

Steve Brown Apartments is proposing the Highlander House, 121 W. Gilman St., be torn down to construct new apartments.

Steve Brown Apartments proposes controversial apartment development

A proposed residential development incited concerns at a community meeting Thursday from residents and University of Wisconsin-Madison students worried it would cost the Mansion Hill neighborhood some of its historic character and affordable housing options.

Steve Brown Apartments is proposing to construct a triad of adjacent five-story apartments at 121, 123 and 127 W. Gilman St. The project would require the Highlander House be torn down as well as a house built in 1894, located at 127 W. Gilman St., which Steve Brown Apartments Manager Dan Seeley said is structurally “unsalvageable.”

The apartments would collectively include 59 units and decrease the current room density on the three plots from 186 beds to 64.

Zach Remijas and Jake Roth, two UW-Madison students who planned to live at 123 W. Gilman St. next year, said the increased rental rates would force them to look elsewhere for housing.

Remijas and Roth said as it currently stands, each of them and their three other roommates would pay approximately $634 per month to live in the four-bedroom house. However, Seeley said the proposed apartments are projected to cost approximately $900 per bedroom per month.

Given the rates and the amenities, David Pokorny, a former Epic Systems employee who now works for Sagacious Consultants, said the proposed housing is clearly aimed at the Epic Systems work force.

The amenities Steve Brown Apartments is proposing include underground parking, granite countertops and in-unit clothing washers and dryers. Pokorny also took issue with the trend of developers catering downtown housing to Epic Systems employees because he said young professionals, most of whom only stay in Madison for a few years, are “not invested in the city.”

“They don’t care if it’s a historic district or not,” Pokorny said. “They just want to live downtown because they want to go to the bars and that doesn’t add to the culture of the neighborhood.”

Remijas agreed, and said although Steve Brown Apartments made some fair concessions to adapt its proposal to the neighborhood’s aesthetic tradition, “it kind of seems like an effort to push students out of the area.”

The proposal will next go to the Landmarks Commission Monday before possibly going to the city for final approval as early as January.

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