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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, June 22, 2024

Frank Lloyd Wright preservationists oppose downtown housing development

Experts on the architectural legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright objected to a local developer’s proposal at a city design committee meeting Wednesday, which would rezone a downtown block to allow an apartment complex to be constructed adjacent to Wright’s historic Lamp House.

Fred Rouse is proposing a six-story, 58-unit apartment to replace three apartments, located at 17, 19 and 25 N. Webster St. The proposed height of the building would require the the city to rezone portions of North Webster Street and East Mifflin Street.

Jack Holzhueter, speaking on behalf of both the local Frank Lloyd Wright Wisconsin Heritage Tourism Program and the national Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, said he “strongly opposes” rezoning the land.

“The apartment building that would be erected, were zoning changed, would aesthetically overwhelm the lamp house,” Holzheuter said. “It would diminish its original and largely intact monumental and magnetic appearance.”

Wright designed the Lamp House in 1903 for his boyhood friend Robert Lamp with the specific intent to supply Lamp with “special views of both lakes and the city,” Janet Halstead, the Executive Director for the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, said in a letter to city staff members.

Holzhueter also emphasized Wright’s ability to proportion his designs in a way that “make even small houses look large.”

“Its current appearance aside, the lamp house and its surroundings are probably Wright’s most elaborate and successful urban example of these design techniques,” he said.

Randy Bruce, Rouse’s architect, said he foresees future housing developments in the area will reach similar structural heights to the proposed development.

“With site you have to think about not just what’s there right now, but also what’s going to happen in the future,” Bruce said.

Ald. Lauren Cnare, District 3, said she wants to hear the recommendation of the Lamp House Block Ad Hoc Plan Committee before deciding on the proposal.

“I think it’s really important that we hear what people want,” Cnare said. “There’s a whole lot of ‘I don’t want’ but it doesn’t give good direction.”

The proposal will come before the Urban Design Commission again before any further action is taken.

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