800 East Washington

Otto Gebhardt’s newest proposal in the Cap East district moves the ambitious developer closer to full control of the Livingston Street/ East Washington Avenue intersection.

The proposal, on the south side of the 800 block of East Washington, would add to Gebhardt’s two current buildings at the intersection: The Constellation apartment building and “The Galaxie” apartment and commercial development set to open in 2015-16.

But this proposal brings something to the table rarely seen in Madison development these days: No apartments.

from Gebhardt Development

Instead, a tower would sit along East Washington Avenue housing a technology-focused business incubator, technology education space and a 1,500 seat concert venue supported by concert promoter “T Presents Madison.” Attached above-ground parking would stand behind the tower, adjacent to East Main Street.

It’s difficult to find anything negative to say about this proposal, pending final exterior designs.

Tech-startup space is the keystone for Madison’s future. In a city attracting thousands of young, tech-savvy professionals to companies like Epic, this proposal provides those minds a place to develop the future of technology and design.

The concert venue would add valuable entertainment opportunities to that same young crowd—and older crowds, alike. Unlike Frank Productions' plan for a venue on the other side of East Washington (which would have provided similar valuable entertainment opportunities), Gebhardt’s development is situated away from residential neighborhoods.

approximate site for new development

In its current state, the corner of East Wash and Livingston is a frontrunner for most underutilized and unsightly in the downtown area. A former auto sales lot, the space plays host to parking, skateboarders and a lot of broken pavement. Surrounded by light industrial and a gas station, any late-night traffic would appear to have minimal effects on local residents.

Gebhardt should also be lauded for putting together a proposal that matches the Cap East plan. This side of East Washington Avenue has been set aside for commercial and “employment” developments—not residential units. Apartments are important, but those living downtown need places to work at and relax as well. (Other developments have ignored the Cap East plan’s recommendations.)  

The parking structure itself is also a stroke of smart design. With each level sitting flat, future development could be built atop the parking. The Cap East district’s future seems without limit these days, and it makes a lot of sense to build for the max potential of that future.

So what’s the catch?

I don’t know. I don’t see one in the early stage of this proposal. If the financing comes together, this is a proposal with massive upside for Madison and little downside. East Washington is beginning to fill with restaurants and nightlife. This proposal is yet another strong step in the right direction to realizing the Cap East plan. But we have a long way to go yet before shovels hit the ground.