Constellation Rising

Constellation Rising
The Constellation building is poised to anchor new development in the Capitol East district.

The view from Jen Mauerman’s tenth-floor luxury apartment stops you in your tracks. Outside the wraparound, floor-to-ceiling windows, the sun sets in a bright orange blaze just past Lake Mendota. To the northeast lies the State Capitol, and your gaze extends beyond it for miles.

Mauerman chose her 780-square-foot home inside the twelve-story Constellation sight unseen before the building opened last August, using a floor plan and the suggestion of the property
manager as her guide. “I lived only three blocks from here in an older building,” she says. “I wanted something more modern and I wanted to stay in the neighborhood. For me, this building is fun. It’s convenient. I have everything of what I think of as Madison around me.”

At twenty-six, Mauerman is still in the collection phase, saving up for furniture she buys piece by piece each month. She works full-time as a digital media manager, and also studies nights at UW for her MBA. Easy access to the lake to pursue her paddleboarding hobby is important to her. She also walks to the Capitol Square, where she explores restaurants and the Dane County Farmers’ Market on warm weekends. Capitol bars form the nexus of her social life. In her experience, other tenants sought to live here for many of the same reasons.

“It’s a very young professional crowd, a very trendy crowd,” she says. “It’s people that I feel like, when we’re in the elevator, we’re the same age and in the same mental state about living here. We don’t want to be homebodies.” 

Like all Constellation apartments, Mauerman’s features such modern appointments as ten-foot ceilings, dark hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances, granite countertops and those unique, picturesque windows. Other facets that appeal to her are the ground-level businesses, Cargo Coffee and Star Bar—a “great place for an after-work cocktail,” she says. Google, Artisan Dental and a 275-stall parking garage round out the building’s footprint.

Heather Ewing works part-time in commercial management, and is also growing her “intuitive art” and coaching business. She creates paintings that seek to bring a spiritual aspect to a space.

Ewing’s apartment is smaller, but the wall-sized windows and the view make it feel expansive. “I like the energy,” she says. “And yet, it’s so quiet and serene in my space. If I want to be in the action, I can be in a second. And if I want quiet solitude, I have that as well.”

Ewing’s at a different stage of life than Mauerman and notices a slightly older, more diverse group of residents. “People are at a good point in their lives,” she says. “They aren’t walking around feeling discontent or stuck. They’re here by choice and that’s exciting.” 

George Reistad and Taeli Turner, both twenty-five, have dated since meeting in Milwaukee five years ago. As part of their unit, they share a wide terrace with several other apartments on the fourth floor. The terrace looks out on the Capitol, but allows for a more communal experience in the summer when residents put out deck furniture or host intimate parties.

“We considered some other areas that were a lot cheaper, but as it is, we both walk to work. The Capitol East neighborhood is really coming up, and it’s interesting to live in this developing corridor. We wanted to live where the action is,” says Reistad.

In their off time, the couple enjoys downtown, but also frequents Willy Street and the bustling commercial district on nearby East Johnson. Like many residents, the pair likes to dine out, and the two were excited to learn that Tory Miller of L’Etoile and Graze is planning a new restaurant at the Constellation. Called Sujeo, it’s slated to open this summer.

Turner, too, notices the wide range of ages and stages of the Constellation’s occupants. “I’ve seen a lot of young families,” she says. “It’s a good mix.”

The Constellation’s developer Otto Gebhardt concurs, though he estimates a heavier concentration of  young profesionals, including many Epic employees who opt for the commute to the Verona software company so they, too, can get in on a decidedly more cosmopolitan lifestyle.

The building is at full occupancy, says Gebhardt, which bodes well for the project he’ll soon break ground on next door: an even bigger mixed-use development featuring 205 units, a Festival Foods grocery store and 33,000 additional feet of retail space. Appropriately named the Galaxie, the building outsizes the Constellation. Gebhardt’s massive overhaul of two city blocks signals transformational change for Madison’s near-east side. 

Laura Jones is a Madison-based writer.