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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Vintage’s future: Demolishing a local business won't remedy the affordable housing problem

Vintage Spirits & Grill faces potential demolition in order to build a new apartment building amidst Madison’s housing crisis.

With the proposal to demolish Vintage Spirits & Grill and build a 33-unit luxury apartment building in its place, the Madison community is losing a family-owned business without gaining new affordable housing.

Madison property developer The Carey Group submitted a proposal to build a 33-unit apartment building at the cost of demolishing the beloved local Vintage Spirits & Grill. Many UW-Madison students' lamented the potential loss of the restaurant to the housing development as Vintage is a Madison staple. With the loss of the restaurant, there is one less place for students to come together on campus and a 12-story building on its grave.  

Local businesses and restaurants are the heart of Madison. Community members gather in these places, and Madison loses a part of its beloved history without them. 

Some Madison favorites have been around since seemingly forever. Since the 1930s, the Plaza Tavern & Grill has attracted many crowds and even two previous Wisconsin governors over the years. Mickies Dairy Bar has been around since 1947, but the building was previously a pharmacy before the restaurant took over the lot. 

Brittany, Trent and Mark Kraemer opened Vintage in 2002. The building Vintage occupies, built in 1927, has seen multiple businesses come and go over its 96-year history, but Vintage has become an essential for college students and the greater Madison community. This family-owned restaurant has garnered the support of the Madison community against the demolition of the building — a petition on to save Vintage has garnered over 4,700 signatures. 

The apartment building would house around 110 students, but the proposal had no mention of making it affordable. According to the July data from the Apartment List National Rent Report, there was a 6.7% increase in rent across Madison and a 1.1% increase from month to month between July 2022 to July 2023. The rent in Madison has increased since March 2020 by 28.4%, with the median one bedroom apartment costing $1,364 per month. 

With the housing shortage and rent increases, Core Spaces, a Chicago-based developer, proposed a 232-unit luxury apartment building near campus, which would replace the 10 houses that have around 72 units of more affordable housing. The proposal was rejected by the Madison City Council due to a lack of affordability, but the council reversed its decision weeks later and allowed for the rezoning of the apartment complex. 

UW-Madison students are the target consumers for the apartment complex since it would be built with access on West Johnson, North Broom and North Bassett Streets. District 8 Alder MGR Govindarajan argued it would not be affordable housing since the units would be sold at the market level rent. Despite this, Core Spaces will be allowed to move forward with the process of the development. 

Core Spaces is currently in the construction process of another new apartment complex on Gorham and Broom Streets in downtown Madison. The building will be available starting in the fall of 2024, housing 386 units. These apartments will also be at market level rent, except 112 beds which will be at below-market level rent for low-income students. Only roughly 10% of the new housing in the complex Core Spaces is building will be affordable for low-income students. 

In addition to these two projects, Core Spaces also owns both The Hub and The James, luxury apartment buildings which are infamous for their high rent costs. Several apartments had a dramatic rent increase over the last year, causing students to look elsewhere for more affordable housing. There was a reported 20% increase in the rent for the 2023-24 lease for The Hub by students currently residing there, way above the Madison average rent increase for the year

Smaller single-family homes, complexes and local businesses are being replaced by luxury apartment buildings with little effort to make strides toward affordability. Madison developers and officials should be prioritizing affordability and lowering rent costs without the demolition of local favorite businesses that are essential to Madison’s community. 

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