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Madison Common Council reverses course, approves student housing development

Madison’s Common Council reversed course to vote in favor of zoning changes for a proposed development on W. Johnson Street during a seven-hour meeting last night. The final vote was 17-2 with one abstention.

The month prior, the Common Council had voted against the zoning requests for the 12-story mixed-use housing development near UW-Madison’s campus, citing concerns about rent costs.

After hours of questions to Core Spaces from council members about affordability, outreach to students that the housing is meant to serve, and the developer’s commitment to maintaining ownership of the property, the council voted in favor of zoning changes for the development. The council claims that approval of the zoning changes was based on the fear of potentially driving future developers away when the city is in need of developers. The point was originally said by Core Spaces during the council’s questioning over the property.

“I am disappointed with the vote yesterday, as are the 1,700 students who provided input and 200 who emailed Alders,” District 8 Alder MGR Govindarajan said. “However there is hope. The Common Council is now intimately familiar with the student housing experience. The vote didn’t go the way we wanted, but the stage is set to continue these discussions and expand high density student housing centered around campus.”

University of Wisconsin students have vehemently spoken out against the housing development. At the council meeting, Core Spaces claimed to have reached out to a large number of students to gain their input on how to develop the property. Three students had actually engaged with Core Spaces’ community outreach efforts.

Core Spaces, the property developer based in Chicago, has built a few properties in Madison in the past, only to sell them off a few years later. The company claims that it is building market rate properties but frequently called the units “affordable” in last night’s council meeting. A member of Core Spaces’ team said that units would be $900-$2,000 on a per bedroom basis. The federal government defines housing as “affordable” if the occupant pays no more than 30 percent of gross income for housing costs, including utilities. 

Core Spaces will tear down 10 properties that typically house students for the development of its W Johnson St. property.

Properties being torn down:

437 W Johnson St.
Efficiency units $635-725, One-bedroom $825-875

445 W Johnson St.
One-bedroom $1,197, two-bedroom $1,297, three-bedroom $2,497, four-bedroom $3,397

215 N Bassett St.
Five-bedroom $3,975 (up from $2,995 in Nov. 2022)

217 N Bassett St.
Three-bedroom $2,497

219 N Bassett St.
Three-bedroom $1,995

221. N Bassett St.
Four-bedroom $2,600

430 W Dayton St.
Six units. No active listing price but is estimated by Apartments.com to have been $1,350 for its one-bedroom unit and $4,000 for its two-bedroom unit at each of its lowest listed prices.

434 W Dayton St.
Three-bedroom $1,740 in its last listing. There is no current active listed price.

438 W Dayton St.
No active list price or accessible record of current or previous listed price.

440 W Dayton St.
No active listed price. Public Records indicate that the property is worth a bit under $5.5 million.

The new properties will be built on W Johnson Street and another under Core Spaces’ development projects called oLiv. There is currently another oLiv in Tempe, AZ. The previous oLiv in Tempe was built by Core Spaces and completed in 2020.