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Transforming An Urban Neighborhood

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There are lots of different type of architects who enjoy their own niches of the industry. Personally, I really enjoy working on complex, mixed-use projects on dense, urban sites. To me, they are puzzles to solve with the benefits of strengthening neighborhoods and improving communities.  

There is something really special about working on projects that will have a positive impact on a community – particularly your community. Many budding architects aim to one day be a part of positive change within their community. I’ve been given this opportunity by a repeat client of ours to help transform the East Washington Corridor of Madison, WI – a place that was once desolate has been slowing re-emerging into a destination neighborhood. Starting with The Lyric and Breese, Stone House Development hired EUA for another project in this neighborhood that is sure to be influential – Arden. More than just another mixed-use project, Arden is part of the larger story of East Washington’s transformation.

Now complete and home to the first residents, Arden is an 11-story, mixed-use building located in Downtown Madison. Designed to be a sister building to the Lyric, Arden adjoins the new Madison Youth Arts Center—another EUA designed project soon to open—and poised to be a staple in the community.

Following the Lyric’s strong success, Stone House Development recognized the strong demand for housing in the area in addition to walkable office and retail spaces. Already economically diverse, Madison has been continuing to build upon its reputation in recent years as a burgeoning Midwest hub for the tech industry and associated fields. With this demand in mind, Stone House took advantage of an immense opportunity to help transform this section of Madison, thanks to the foresight of the City’s master plan and zoning changes along this corridor.

I’ve worked on a lot of projects in different cities but never with a community quite like Madison. A culturally and economically diverse city that’s home to the State Capitol as well as the largest State University, Madison residents tend to be very involved in their community and are very dedicated to voicing their opinions about shaping their unique City. When we first opened the EUA Madison office 15 years ago, the East Washington Corridor was a sort of ghost town of empty car dealerships, vacant industrial sites and sparsely used parking lots. Located adjacent to the State Capital, it didn’t make for a very impressive entrance to the City. City and neighborhood leaders recognized that the current zoning in place was actually causing a misalignment between supply and demand—meaning the zoning would only allow for the types of properties that were currently there, but there was no longer any demand for these uses in this location. To help unlock the potential for transformation, the City worked with the community to create a master plan that led to zoning ordinance changes, which now allow mixed-uses and higher densities, opening doors to potential revitalization for the neighborhood.

With potential uncapped, Stone House seized the opportunity to enhance the neighborhood. More and more, we are seeing multiple generations of people choose to live in mixed-use, amenity-rich, highly walkable settings. Traditionally, most high paying tech jobs have been located on the coasts but more and more companies are moving to Madison for increased affordability. With their employees still having relatively high salaries but a lower cost of living than places like New York or San Francisco, there was a desire for these young professionals to live in a more urban, higher end setting. Additionally, there’s also been a national trend of more and more people retiring and desiring to downsize and have easy access to all that an urban center has to offer.

For Arden, our team’s interior design concept woven throughout the building focused on foliage. The colors and materials connect to Arden’s sister building, Lyric, while remaining a unique identity reflective of putting down roots and growing in this blossoming neighborhood. I’ve been honored to be a part of transforming East Washington thus far and my excitement only increases with its evolution. Through Stone House developments alone, the neighborhood now has high-end, market rate and affordable housing, in addition to a variety of retail, food and cultural options. Ten years ago, my wife and I never would have said, “hey, let’s bike over to East Wash to hang out.” Now it’s on our list of favorite places. 

As I’ve watched East Washington evolve from basically a series of empty buildings and parking lots into a destination neighborhood, it feels as if the possibilities are endless for this community. I can’t help but wonder what else is possible? 

 

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