Madison City Council approves 10-story downtown development with options for low-income students

Oliv Madison Rendering 1
Renderings via Madison Common Council documents

MADISON, Wis. — Madison’s Common Council approved a luxury 10-story housing development Tuesday which would bring more than 100 affordable housing units to the downtown area.

Council members ultimately approved zoning changes for the Core Spaces development 16-3 with Alds. Juliana Bennett, Nikki Conklin, and Jael Currie voting against.

Named “Oliv Madison,” Core Spaces’ latest development would bring 386 housing units and 23,229 square feet of retail space to the block surrounded by State, Gorham, Johnson and Broom Streets. Unit sizes would range in size from “micro-units” to five-bedroom options. The proposed building would also feature green rooftop spaces, a pool, gathering areas and other amenities for residents.

According to plan documents filed with the city, the project would keep some façade details from existing buildings and limit the building’s height on State Street to three stories with a maximum height of 10 stories within the block.

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As part of an agreement between the Council and Core Spaces to approve zoning for the 10-story building, the developer agreed to make 112 of the 1,101 beds available for low-income students. Students who qualify would be limited to shared four-bed, two-bedroom units. Under the agreement, Core Spaces would work with UW-Madison’s Office of Student Financial Aid to verify students’ eligibility for affordable units.

The agreement would reserve low-cost beds for a minimum of 30 years, a move Alder Mike Verveer and one of the developers said would set a precedent for affordable housing agreements with future developers.

“To our knowledge, this is really the first of its kind within the city of Madison and will set an excellent example for future development within the city,” Rob Bok, development director with Core Spaces, said.

Bennett, who represents District 8 which encompasses a majority of the UW-Madison campus argued during the meeting that the low-cost housing component’s reliance on “average housing costs” as the definition of what’s considered affordable doesn’t go far enough to make sure costs remain affordable in the coming years.

“Even with the low-cost component, I can not in good confidence support these zoning changes,” Bennett said.

Alder Verveer, citing support from the council’s plan commission, Urban Design Commission and several local neighborhood organizations, called on other council members to vote in support of the project.

“I do believe that there’s a lot to like in this proposal, but it is important that we also acknowledge there is not overwhelming support, perhaps, by all corners of the downtown community,” Verveer said.

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Several businesses previously housed in the 300 block of Gorham Street, including A Room of One’s Own bookstore, have already relocated because of the development.

Core Spaces is the same development company behind The Hub and The James, two luxury apartment complexes in the downtown area.