Chicago-based developer Core Spaces is moving forward with a plan to build a new 1,650-1,700 bed apartment building in downtown Madison.
If approved, the proposal — named “Johnson & Broom” by Core Spaces — would remove existing buildings on the 400 block of West Johnson Street, the 300 block of North Broom Street and 407 West Gorham Street and replace them with a 14-story, primarily market-rate student housing complex.
Representatives from Core Spaces, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s campus and the Madison Common Council discussed the developer’s housing proposal at a Sept. 7 public meeting. Presenters explained topics like city laws, affordability, and aesthetics, including the plan to provide a 40% discount on approximately 160 beds.
District 4 Ald. Mike Verveer, who represents much of downtown Madison, highlighted the proposal's affordable bed plan during the meeting.
"To me, what's the most exciting is the ability — hopefully — to include affordable beds, low-cost beds in this proposal," Verveer said.
The project’s inclusion of reduced-rate beds is a result of city efforts to incentivize developer inclusion of reduced-rate housing units, according to Matthew Mikolajewski, director of Madison’s Economic Development Division. The Common council approved an ordinance in March that allows developers to build more floors than the city plan allows if the project includes affordable units.
“If [developers] provide some level of affordability within a project, we will allow you to build above the height limit that's within the downtown plan," Mikolajewski said.
Building above the city height limit allows developers to add density to their projects and secure more funding, which are key components of large-scale apartment construction, according to Madison's urban planning department.
Core Spaces previously built the James, the Hub and is currently constructing oLiv, a new high-rise. The apartments, including Johnson and Broom, boast amenities such as pools, fitness centers, and study areas.
Core Spaces said their buildings match market prices and highlighted its cooperation with the city to include price-sensitive units.
Core Spaces and the city will work with UW-Madison’s Office of Student Financial Aid to determine which students are eligible for the reduced-rate beds and connect them with housing, the developer said.
"We were proud to be a part of this program and implemented it with the city and the university and thought it was a win-win for everybody,” a representative for Core Spaces said Thursday. “Essentially, we're providing 10% of those benefits at a 40% discount to market through the university."
Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said in February that mixed-price housing developments in the downtown area supply necessary housing for residents of all income levels.
"You see those buildings and you think they’re luxury buildings, but not all of them are. In fact, many of them have affordable components inside that building,” Rhodes-Conway told PBS. “So when we’re subsidizing housing, we are often not creating an entire building that’s affordable, but we are creating a percentage of [affordable] units in that building."
When considering accessibility, Core Spaces team members said the layout of their new building will contain several entrances on each side, and elevators will go directly to each floor. Apartment layout will follow a design created by Core Spaces to maximize space while still providing privacy, the developer’s representative said.
The price-sensitive units will exhibit the same layout as market rate units, and the affordable housing rooms will be dispersed throughout the building, according to Core Spaces.
District 8 Ald. MGR Govindarajan, who represents much of the UW-Madison campus, attended the meeting Thursday and said the reduced rate units will provide some help for low-income students.
"I think the housing will help,” Govindarajan said. “I'd like to see more affordability, but the discounted rates are a good start."
The Johnson & Broom proposal still needs approval by the Common Council, but Core Spaces offered a tentative construction start date of Sept. 1, 2024.