Over the course of the past decade, as the city’s population has increased, Madison’s historic State Street area has experienced an influx of investment from large business interests.
This is perhaps most visible by the establishment of new chain storefronts, such as Cane's Chicken or Target, but is also present in the establishment of new luxury apartment complexes which cater predominantly to UW-Madison students and young professionals.
“There have been a lot of high-rise apartments going in, and we just felt bad for that area of State Street where a lot of small businesses are getting moved out,” Red Rock Saloon Director of Marketing Bailey Bauer said. “It would provide housing, but it is just more expensive housing that college students will have to pay for to live in.”
Currently, the Madison Common Council is reviewing a plan proposing a ten-story luxury apartment building at the intersection of State Street and West Gorham Street, where Red Rock Saloon was previously located before the bar was forced to move.
The proposed building, referred to as the Oliv Madison, contains 451 units with 1063 total beds and is anticipated to be similar to other luxury apartments in the area such as the Hub and the James.
Core Spaces, the Chicago real-estate development firm proposing the project, purchased several locally well-established state street businesses with plans to demolish them in order to construct the apartment complex.
The project has not been received positively by the State Street community, many of whom are concerned with potential changes to State Street, citing both the design of the apartment as well as the removal of several small businesses as concerns regarding the project.
District 4 Alder Michael Verveer shares many of these concerns. Verveer oversaw the planning of Hub Madison, a similar high-rise luxury apartment located near campus that was also built by Core Spaces.
Verveer explained in an interview with the Daily Cardinal that the end result of the Hub Madison was noticeably different from the proposed plan. Verveer went on to explain that he feels that the Core Spaces development detracts from the State Street area.
“I was horrified at how the Hub ended up in terms of its design. It looked a hell of a lot better on paper than it ended up looking being built, especially the blank walls of the tower. Whenever I’m on Gilman or State, I get sick to my stomach. I feel like it’s my fault that we didn’t force them to have better quality materials or more windows, that sort of thing,” Verveer said.
In relation to the Oliv Madison, Verveer commented that losing long-standing community businesses as a result of constructing the building is a regrettable reality. Ultimately, Verveer explains that relocating these businesses was inevitable.
“It certainly isn’t optimal and nobody wants to move, but I knew right away when this was proposed to me that it was going to be a huge concern of these small businesses being forced to relocate. When the Hub was proposed, several State Street restaurants were forced to relocate, so I’ve been through this with them before,” Verveer said.
A Room of One’s Own, a bookstore previously located on West Gorham Street was one of several stores that were forced to relocate after their landlord sold their building to Core Spaces. A spokesman associated with A Room of One’s Own expressed their discontent with losing their State Street location to the Daily Cardinal.
“[We were] surprised, sad and scrambling to find a new place. We hoped to stay downtown but didn’t find any spaces that would work for us,” A Room of One’s Own said in an email. “We did not have any say in the process and would not have chosen to relocate.”
A Room of One’s Own believes that gentrification plays a role in the stores being sold to Core Spaces. A Room of One’s Own explained that the bookstore was “sad and frustrated that some long-standing local businesses in historic buildings were pushed out.”
The bookstore relocated to Atwood Avenue and opened in early October.
Red Rock Saloon is in the process of relocating across the street to what was previously Hopcat, a bar and grill that closed in early 2020. Unlike A Room of One’s Own, Red Rock Saloon’s relocation was a considerably more pleasant process. Bauer explained that the bar expressed interest in changing locations long before Core Spaces bought them out.
“I have worked at Red Rock for five years and I want to say that we had known about it for about 2 or 3 years now, so we just started looking for another place,” Bauer said. “With COVID-19 and Hopcat closing, it worked out to be a good thing. We are actually really excited for what we think will be a better location”.
Despite the ease of relocating, Baur expressed skepticism when asked about Core Spaces’ proposed Oliv Madison building.
Core Spaces is responding to the need for more affordable housing by dedicating 10% of Oliv Madison’s beds to students from lower-income families. Verveer explains that Core Spaces will work with the Office of Student Financial Aid at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to set standards for eligibility. Verveer is skeptical about the reduced rates, noting that details about the lower rent prices have not been agreed upon.
“Trying to figure out what’s equitable for those students and how they might qualify is part of the issue,” Verveer said.
Core Spaces declined to answer questions regarding the reduced rental rates.
The Madison Plan Commission will meet with Core Spaces on Nov. 8 to vote on their final land use approval. If Oliv Madison is approved by the City of Madison, Core Spaces is expected to begin construction in the Spring of 2022.