Adding more green space downtown is a city priority, but the pace of downtown construction makes that goal difficult.
Core Campus, the Chicago-based developer of the State Street residential complex The Hub, for instance, is now eying a .08-acre plot at the intersection of Gorham and Bassett streets for a new project. The Hub II, one block away from The Hub, would be a 12-story, 424,408-square-foot residential complex marketed to Epic and professional residents.
This area, however, is also being eyeballed by city staff for a park. A resolution passed by the city council in November 2014 directed city staff to negotiate land "in the general vicinity of West Johnson and North Bassett streets" to be set aside as a park. The city has budgeted $7 million in segregated funds for this purpose.
"It has been determined that the downtown area is deficient in green space and a park is recommended in the downtown area," Shea says.
According to the downtown plan, the land around Johnson and Bassett is the most park-deficient area in downtown Madison. Already dominated by large-scale student housing, the area has seen even more construction in recent years. New developments since 2012 include The Hub, Domain at the intersection of Johnson and Broom streets, and Park Place at the intersection of Johnson and Bassett streets.
"Many properties in the immediate area have been redeveloped during the past decade with large buildings that provide little to no open space for residents. The area proposed for the new park is well located to serve the hundreds of student-oriented residential units built in the vicinity," the downtown plan reads.
According to Ald. Mike Verveer, the problem is finding a willing seller for a park. Core Campus is acquiring the plot for Hub II from Mullins Group, which also sold them the land for The Hub. Verveer says the city approved the site in the early 1990s for a Mullins Group apartment building that never got built. Mullins has already declined to sell the land to the city as a park, but new owners may choose to include a park on the property.
Bert Stitt, a member of CNI, notes the Mullins lot is in a pricey location.
"Certainly that particular parcel of land commands a very high price as a development site," Stitt says.
He also points out that the undeveloped plot is one of the few green spaces in that area, and that it is a gathering spot during warm weather.
"That property has served as a popular sunbathing and 'park' relaxation [spot] for students for years," Stitt says. "The southeast campus area has very little by way of open space, and this site constitutes about the only remaining such opportunity."
Shea says that there is no specific plan to put a park on the Mullins lot, but adding green space in that general vicinity is a high priority for the city.
"While a specific site has not been determined, we are looking for opportunities to assemble several lots for a half acre to an acre of parkland," says Shea. "The process for support would be through our Parks Commission, city council and, of course, the neighborhood."
Larry Warman, district chair of Mifflin Neighborhood Association and a member of CNI, says that one way to get a small park in the area would be to forgive the city park fees usually charged to developers in exchange for an agreement that some park space would be included in the final project.
District 1 Ald. Ledell Zellers, in informal minutes of a CNI meeting, says a park is a possibility if citizens raise their voices.
"If people make it clear to the city they want a park, the city could then say it won't sign off on a development unless the developer [includes a park]," Zellers says.
Benjamin Modleski, COO of Core Campus, says The Hub II is currently in the proposal stage. He says the main differences between The Hub and The Hub II are design and size, particularly with retail space. The Hub II will have 9,000 square feet of retail, compared to The Hub's 30,000.
Modelski cites Madison's vibrant culture as the major reason for adding a new development.
"We appreciate the local culture and history and look forward to growing with downtown Madison," Modleski says. "We're actively pursuing partnerships with local businesses and trying to embrace the local community as we become a part of it."
And, he adds, "We've received a positive response about bringing another housing option to Madison from local residents."
Modelski says he is open to a conversation about green space.
"The discussion hasn't taken place yet, but Hub II would gladly welcome that discussion to add a park nearby," Modelski says.