Madison development leaves bad feelings in neighborhood

Milwaukee-based developer plans to fix up south side apartment complex

Published On: Nov 28 2012 10:25:03 PM CST   Updated On: Nov 29 2012 07:45:51 AM CST
MADISON, Wis. -

A development deal that's moving forward on Madison's south side is still being debated after city leaders approved it.

The Madison Common Council on Tuesday voted 11-6, with two abstentions, to allow the renovation and expansion of the Nob Hill Apartments. The troubled complex is at 1108 Moorland Road, just south of the Beltline.

The approval came over the objections of neighborhood leaders, who said the plan to add more bedrooms would isolate more low-income residents in a place far from city services.

"There was a lot of posturing (Tuesday) night, that happens in politics," said Mike Mervis of Zilber Ltd., the Milwaukee-based developer. "But now, that's behind us, there's a chance to do something really good for Nob Hill and the city of Madison."

The Nob Hill complex has more than 270 units. Many residents testified before the council in support of the developer's plan, although opponents said that was misleading.

"They (the developers) focused their attention on divide and conquer," said Alderman Tim Bruer, who represents the area on the council. "They were able to promise garages and new appliances. If you've got a 1970s refrigerator and your car's got ice on it, this is particularly attractive."

Mayor Paul Soglin called the development deal "a victory" for providing affordable housing in the city, and said he was surprised about the opposition to the plan.

"It does something that we as government cannot do," Soglin said. "This is going to lay the foundation and set a precedent in terms of expectations in the city."

Madison Police Chief Noble Wray said at Tuesday's meeting that police calls to Nob Hill were "high," but Soglin said they had declined over the past three months.

Zilber developers would build a community center, add a playground and staff a social worker in the community to help adults with transportation and other issues.

"They told the city they're going to do all this stuff. Now it's up to them, and hopefully the city will hold them accountable," said Dan Kerkman, a neighbor who opposes the plan. "I want to be able to feel safe -- because whatever happens here affects everyone within a 10-block radius."

Mervis said he hopes to buy the property soon and begin the renovation in late January or early February. The first units would be available about eight weeks later.

"I think it's clearly 'all systems go,'" Mervis said.