McGrath Property Group/Cas4 Architecture
The 149 E. Wilson St. development would feature 127 rental units, commercial space on its first floor and underground parking.
"No project in Madison's history has negatively impacted as many residents," said Francisco Scarano, who lives in the Marina Condominums at 137 E. Wilson St. The proposed apartment building would be sandwiched between the Marina condos and the Union Transfer Condominiums at 155 E. Wilson St., at the base of King Street.
Scarano read aloud a letter signed by 36 Marina residents claiming that the project would have "catastrophic" consequences for its neighbors by taking away their views of Lake Monona, natural light and privacy while damaging their property values.
Nearly all of the people who spoke at the meeting live in the adjacent condos.
The 14-story proposed development would replace a three-story vacant building that once housed the state Department of Corrections. It would feature 127 rental units, commercial space on its first floor and underground parking.
McGrath sees the development as another step in revitalizing downtown Madison.
"There's no doubt that we're impacting the views [of Marina] residents," McGrath said. "But this project adds value to the neighborhood as a whole."
Marina resident Scott Henderson said that local condo residents are wary of added traffic and congestion at the location. Scarano admitted that the state building is an "eyesore," but said McGrath's project "is the wrong way to go."
"Your building reminds me of what my two-year-old grandson built with LEGO," another speaker said.
Local architect Kenton Peters, who designed both the Marina and Union Transfer buildings and lives in the Union Transfer penthouse, criticized the proposal for ignoring the needs and character of downtown Madison.
"Good architecture doesn't take a 20-minute discussion," Peters said.
Peters also said that offering rental studios and one-bedroom apartments would create the kind of problems seen in the Allied Drive neighborhood, one of the city’s more troubled neighborhoods.
"As I look at the building proposed ... I can say to you that I think what you're proposing will be the Allied Drive of downtown in 10 years," Peters said.
Project designer Paul Cuta called the comment "absolutely offensive."
"I find it arrogant and ignorant to suggest that somebody who rents a studio is somehow a lesser class, and would lead to being Allied Drive," Cuta replied.
Designed by Peters, the Marina building was itself a controversial project. Most famously, former Mayor Sue Bauman likened it to a "garbage can on the lake."
Area alders Mike Verveer and Marsha Rummel have yet to weigh in on the McGrath proposal, saying that it would be "premature."
But Verveer understands the complaints of residents better than most: a number of new buildings have eclipsed his own view of Lake Monona from his Bassett neighborhood condo.
But none of these buildings, he says, are "anywhere near as close" as the new development would be to Marina and Union Transfer.
"This is definitely one of the more emotional neighborhood meetings I've been a part of," Verveer says. "It's going to be a very tough decision over the coming months."
McGrath submitted his development proposal to the city Nov. 6. Reviews by the Urban Design Commission, Plan Commission and Common Council won't be completed until the end of January.