Block 100 Foundation
Although the UDC members are tepid towards the Frautschi/Rowland proposal, they are thrilled by the potential for reinventing the block.
The proposal for the 100 block of State Street got more bruising criticism Wednesday night, this time from the Urban Design Commission.
"I strongly feel that corner building needs to remain," said Dawn O'Kroley, an architect and UDC member said of the Fairchild Building, 124 W. Mifflin St., which isn't a landmark, but is prized by preservationists. "That's a deal breaker for me."
The Fairchild building is one of five structures Jerome Frautschi and Pleasant Rowland, benefactors of the Overture Center, have proposed tearing down to make way for a private plaza and office building. The Fairchild and the Schubert Building, 120 W. Mifflin, an historic landmark, would be replaced with the private plaza, with seating for a restaurant. Representatives for Frautschi and Rowland have suggested the plaza, at the corner of Mifflin and Fairchild Streets, is the key element of the proposal and they will not bend on it.
City staff has come out against plans to demolish the buildings on Mifflin Street though they are less bothered by demolitions proposed for State Street. On Monday night, the Landmarks Commission seemed unswayed by arguments in favor of tearing the Mifflin Street buildings down. And the Urban Design Commission was similarly resistant Wednesday night.
John A. Harrington, a UDC member, told the developers he isn't dead-set against the private plaza, but that it needed to be a spectacular space. The current proposal is unremarkable, he said. Because the Overture Center already creates "dead space" on the corner of Mifflin and Fairchild during the day with little activity, Harrington said he feared a private plaza across the street would be similarly "dead," especially during the winter months.
Commissioner Todd R. Barnett agreed, saying the private garden plaza seemed designed to deter the public from lingering. "It's discouraging people from sitting there," he said. "I don't see it as a refuge, as an oasis."
Many UDC members were more impressed with an alternate vision put forth by the Madison Trust for Historic Preservation, which calls for renovating all of the buildings and putting a rooftop garden restaurant on the Fairchild Building. "As an architect I respect history but want to progress," said O'Kroley, asking the developers to build on top of the Fairchild Building. "Go up. Make it soar and make it sing."
Although the UDC members are tepid towards the Frautschi/Rowland proposal, they are thrilled by the potential for reinventing the block, sprucing up old buildings and improving the urban design. Other ways to accomplish what the developers want began to percolate during the meeting. Why not widen the sidewalk by eight or nine feet (sacrificing street parking) in order to create the landscaping the developers want to with the private plaza? Or what if the city closes the cul-de-sac that is the 100 block of West Mifflin, adding landscaping and the urban refuge the developers say they want to create?
"How can we save a landmark?" asked Ald. Marsha Rummel, who is a UDC member. "I don't want you guys to walk away."
The UDC took no action on the proposal, referring it for more discussion, most likely at its Feb. 15 meeting. The Landmarks Commission will also revisit the proposal at its Feb. 13 meeting.