New Development at Johnson and Bassett

The corner of W Johnson and Bassett St (behind the Aberdeen) may finally have something happen. For now it’s just an informational presentation at the Urban Design Commission, so it’s not a sure thing, but this is a pretty important step. I’ll spare you the 40 meg download of the UDC file, and show you the three images that tell you most everything you need to know.

The site (inside the yellow polygon):

The description:

The massing:

Some first thoughts: Boring design, but it’s just a massing diagram and not a final design, so hopefully it gets better. It’s the right scale for the area (we wanted to put all of the high rises together).

If the hotel portion is meant to serve the UW, it’s not where I’d put it. I’d put something down by the WID  – vacate Lorch St and build on the triangle  of Randall/University/Johnson where Campus Drive splits, and serve WID/MIR, the new Wisconsin Energy Institute, and the Engineering/Life Sciences part of campus. [Edit 2010-05-17: The WID site would be a different scale hotel with a smaller number of rooms. On thinking about it the next morning, it’s not clear to me that the room count would be high enough to economically justify a project there. I think there needs to be a standalone hotel in the area – I’m still horrified by the rooms at the old Union South and am not prepared to ask people to stay in the new Union.]

The downtown hotel market is going to have a tough time absorbing these new 163 rooms, the just-opened 151 room Hyatt, and most likely the new ~100 rooms at the Edgewater. (For comparison, the DoubleTree is also 163 rooms.) Maybe as a UW-serving hotel it’s easier.  I’d also be a bit leery of a hotel connected to a residential apartment building, particularly one that’s likely to be dominated by undergraduates – hopefully they can isolate the fire alarms. I sure as hell would never have my parents stay there.

For now, it’s a good deal for students – the high rises are very popular, and having more options is good. I’m a bit concerned about how these buildings will work long-term: what sort of shape will they be in circa 2035, but I guess that’s not a question for today.

There’s also a question of what this does to the older housing stock in Madison. 10 to 15 years ago, the only high rises were La Ciel and La Ville, so virtually everyone lived in old houses, but that’s obviously changed. The building adds 262 bedrooms, let’s say half of them will actually double up in rooms, so figure 393 people will live in the building. (I have no idea if a 1.5 multiplier is at all correct.) From a Google map, I count about 35 houses on the 500 block of W Mifflin. Many of those are big or have multiple apartments, so let’s say they’re an average of 7 people per house, so 245 people on the block. If this building is built, then there will be essentially a block and a half worth of new vacancies in (presumably) older houses. This is good for renters, and bad for landlords. Things are going to change, and that doesn’t always bring out the best in Madison.

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