Plan Commission Reviews Development Concepts Proposals

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Cameron Bren
The Middleton Plan Commission heard proposals for two developments one proposed but The Bruce Company (top), and a second on University Avenue.

MIDDLETON–The Middleton Plan Commission reviewed two conceptual proposals for mixed-use, multi-family, residential-commercial redevelopment projects, granting concept approval for a four story, 81-unit building on University Avenue and referring a proposal from The Bruce Company to redevelop its Parmenter Street location into a multi-phase, multi-building project with up to 600 units.

Planning and Zoning Administrator Mark Opitz said the developer Prime Urban Properties is requesting feedback from the plan commission for a proposal which calls for redeveloping two buildings at 6230 and 6236 University Avenue near the intersection with Allen Boulevard. The site currently has a multi-tenant building with a Milio’s Sandwiches, Queen’s Way Laundry laundromat and a former tattoo shop and another building formerly a Mexican Restaurant. 

The proposed building would include 81 units consisting mostly of studio and one-bedroom apartments, 83 enclosed parking stalls and 2,352 square feet of commercial space.

The developer plans to submit a rezoning request to change the current zoning from B2 general business to a planned development district which creates zoning requirements specific to the project and has been used for similar projects in the city and the University Avenue corridor. 

Opitz noted the developer will be seeking assistance from the city for the cost of burying power lines connecting to the building. The Middleton Common Council previously endorsed the developer’s application for grant.

Mayor Gurdip Brar said he was happy to see a proposal for the aging site and glad the proposal calls for having a commercial component.

Brar said with most of the units being one-bedrooms and studios it should be an affordable option for students and lower income residents.

He noted Prime Urban Properties is also redeveloping the site across the street which is in The City of Madison.

Brar said he did not have any concern with the proposed four story height of the building but pointed out that the city needs to resolve building height limitations on University Avenue which are conflicting in different city plans allowing either three or four stories.

Plan Commission member John Schaffer said he was hesitant to call the project mixed-use because the commercial component was relatively small within the project. He added that he is concerned about the parking entrance/exits on University Ave. because of the close proximity to Allen Boulevard intersection. 

Plan Commission member Kurt Paulsen asked what the distance would be from the building to the street and if it was possible to move it closer.

Kevin Burow from Knothe & Bruce Architects responded saying the building would be set back 25 feet from sidewalk and 40 feet from the street. Burow said the right-of-way is only five feet from the building so it would not be possible to move any closer to the street.

Paulsen asked if the design would match the building across the street. Burow said the colors and materials have not been finalized but the plan is to have the design compliment the building across the street.

Plan Commission member Jen Murray said she likes architecture but would like the design to emphasize the variety of materials more to visually break up the mass of the building.

Paulsen made a motion to grant concept approval which was approved by the plan commission unanimously.

Director of Planning and Community Development Abby Attoun reviewed the concept proposal from The Bruce Company which would redevelop a major portion of the Parmenter Street corridor over multiple development phases and create a new office and retail store for the landscaping and garden store. The Bruce Company would move its bulk products to its Verona location.

Attoun said planning staff worked with the developer for the Project T. Wall Enterprises to request that Laura Lane be extended south to Parmenter Street and remain a public street. Attoun said that would help facilitate a city park staff would like to have adjacent access to the development.

Brar said with the potential of having 600 residential units a green space will be essential.

Seth Nicholson, president and COO of The Bruce Company, said they choose to work with T. Wall because of their long history working together.  

Terrence Wall from T. Wall Enterprises said it will be critical for The Bruce Company to remain open during construction. The existing building will remain while the new office and retail building is built. When it is finished the company will move over in one day and then the old building will be demolished.

Wall reviewed the proposal which includes six multifamily buildings and another building office or hotel depending on demand.

The concept design includes an open air pavilion and event space which will be alongside The Bruce Company’s greenhouses.

Wall said an area of land will be dedicated to the city. There will be a clubhouse, pool and additional green space for residents only. A playground set is planned that could be dedicated to the city as well, Wall said.

There would be underground parking for the multifamily and office building while a parking lot along Parmenter Street would be needed in front of The Bruce Company retail building. 

Wall said the proposal didn’t originally extend Laura Lane, but they have been persuaded by planning staff to do so. Wall noted it would remain public, but they would like to change the name of the road.

He said it is a big project but only one building would be built every two years or about 50 units per year totaling about 700 residents with all phases completed.

Wall noted The Bruce Company under contract to buy the building of neighboring business Samplers Square and they have started negotiations with Latitude Graphics. AutoColor is the only tenant with a long term lease and may need some help from the city to relocate. 

Schaffer said he feels it is important to preserve land for a park or green space. He also does not want to see buildings clustered along Pheasant Branch Creek.

Murray said the concept is very exciting and aligns well with the city’s goals. She said she is not worried about buildings being constructed next to the creek if constructed properly. 

Paulsen said the proposal is a great way to use the parcel, but the design is sterile and unimaginative. He said he understands the constraints of the site and needs of development in the current economy, but the proposal is an opportunity to define a corridor for a generation. 

“I don’t have a good solution and I haven’t sat down and tried to design it myself, but it feels flat and a little sterile,” Paulsen said. “Maybe provide a greater variety of building type and housing type than the standard L-shaped building.”

Paulsen said he would like to see the retail building closer to the street and it would be good if the Latitude Graphics negotiations work out so the whole corridor can be redeveloped. 

Alder Dan Ramsey said there is not much visual interest in the design, but it is still conceptual. He said the buildings should have more variety and he’s excited about the possibility for a new city park. 

Wall said he took notes, appreciates the feedback and responded to some comments. He said the L-shaped buildings are needed to break up the corridor to have fire lanes and secondly The Bruce Company wants to have enclosed spaces for seasonal changes to plantings. 

Wall said they would all be four story buildings but will have height variations in key places. That saves on the cost of development, he said.

He added design will get more exciting, but also the city needs to realize the value of the proposal The Bruce Company is offering. He said they have already made compromises with planning staff.

Ramsey made a motion to approve the concept, but Paulsen said he wasn’t sure it was ready for that. Paulsen asked Wall what they are willing to change if anything. Wall said they will incorporate everything they can but not be able to do all that the plan commission asked.

Mayor Brar made a motion to refer the concept to the Parks Recreation and Forestry Committee, Conservancy Lands Committee, and Water Resources Management Commission. Paulsen asked that it also be referred to the Workforce Housing Committee noting the city’s housing strategy plan calls for the city to negotiate for affordable housing whenever TIF is used, which will be for the project. The motion passed unanimously.

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