Businesses on the 400 block of State Street have moved to new locations in anticipation of a plan to demolish and redevelop the block.
Madison-based developer JD McCormick Properties proposed to build a five-story building on State Street’s 400 block.
The development would include commercial space for a restaurant on the first and second floor, as well as 23-26 apartment units above.If approved, three small retail storefronts would be demolished. Two of those buildings, 428-430 State St. and 432-436 State St., were constructed in the 1890s.
In February, JD McCormick Properties submitted the proposal to the city’s Urban Design Commission (UDC) for approval. However, the commission did not approve the project due to concerns the development would disrupt the character of State Street.
Alder Patrick Heck (District 2) told the Daily Cardinal the UDC commissioners believed the proposed design does not align with State Street’s historic architecture.
“They were criticized for it being out of scale with the traditional narrow storefront facades of State Street,” Heck said. “And some UDC commissioners were concerned about the four story height right along State, even though that's allowed in the zoning.”
JD McCormick ultimately decided to revise its plans. Although, the property company has yet to submit its revisions to the UDC.
Colin Smith, JD McCormick’s business development director, claimed the development would promote greater economic activity on State Street.
“This project has been a hope and dream for years now,” Smith said to the Wisconsin State Journal. “We decided to start the official process because State Street has had an increase in commercial vacancies and a decrease in pedestrian traffic. Our owner has lived in Madison his entire life and wants to be part of the revitalization of State Street.”
JD McCormick did not respond to the Cardinal’s request for comment.
Though the project has not yet been approved by the UDC, the businesses located at the 400 block have already relocated.
Businesses include Sencha Tea Bar, B-Side Records, Culture Collectives and Freedom Skate Shop — each of which has found a new location elsewhere on State Street.
Alder Heck said the displaced businesses had been unhappy about the move, especially those who are facing higher rents.
“They were on essentially month to month leases,” he said. “They didn't really have the ability to say, ‘Oh, we signed a lease for a year. So you can't kick us out.’”
“I think they were all not happy about having to move out, and some of them will be paying higher rents than they were, ” Alder Heck continued.
B-Side Records, located at 436 State Street, is the last of the businesses to move. Owner Steve Manley said he plans to move his new location at 514 State Street in September.
“The whirlwind of pre-moving activity is already underway,” said Manley. “The big push will happen sometime mid-to-late September. We estimate to have to be closed for most of a week or so during the major portion of the transition.”
Manley said though he considered moving off State Street, he felt that the location’s high pedestrian traffic would make up for the higher rent costs.
“I had considered moving the store to a different area of the city where lease rates are cheaper but my feeling is B-Side Records has such a long identity as a State Street store and thought it best to keep it that way,” he said. “It might be the highest commercial rent district in Wisconsin, but the tradeoff is that it is one of the best locations for foot traffic.”
Despite sharing some of the commission’s concerns, Alder Heck remains open minded about what the project, if approved, will offer the community.
“I need to see what [JD McCormick’s] new plans are and how they've evolved before I can make a decision,” Heck said. “I generally try to hear all the input and see every single piece of what's been proposed.”