Monday, December 17, 2007

Are you feeling Lucky? In the Madison real estate market, it's all in the roll of the dice.

The other evening you could see the partially completed Lucky, the huge mixed use student apartment complex near the UW campus campus on Madison's University Avenue, rise into the night behind Vilas Hall in the foreground. On their website is the tagline, "You only live once. Live Lucky," which seems to be a pretty realistic reflection of how the local real estate market has turned housing into a crapshoot.

The University of Wisconsin student newspaper The Daily Cardinal recently turned a skeptical eye on the Lucky project in particular and real estate development in Madison in general.
The upscale transformation of Madison is underway, and if you blink, your eyes may open to a completely different place. As Madison’s skyline changes, the city’s identity also undergoes a transformation.

Madison’s eccentric culture is in danger of drowning in a mass of pre-fabricated housing that brings Madison’s identity closer to that of nearly every other developing city in the nation. The campus is also in danger of further socio-economic segregation in housing as the price gap widens with the establishment of new, more expensive apartment buildings.


The newest high rise in the campus area is Steve Brown’s building, Lucky, which is the largest mixed-use project in the history of the city of Madison, according to the building’s website. Lucky continues the trend of new high-priced apartment buildings along University Avenue and West Gorham Street.
Several miles to the west, the Hilldale Shopping Center developers, Joseph Freed & Associates, have not been as lucky. The Wisconsin State Journal reported that The Heights, an 11-story condo, has been put on hold due to market conditions, to await "a date that more appropriately and effectively meets the supply and demand of the Madison condominium market."
That date could be months from now, or it could be years from now, said Ald. Tim Gruber, District 11, who represents the area.

This is the second time the developer has delayed plans for condominiums at Hilldale. In September, Freed & Associates swapped a 90-unit condominium building for a six-story hotel. Plans for Hotel Indigo will go before the Madison Plan Commission for approval Monday.

The Heights building is part of the second phase of redevelopment at Hilldale that also includes a Whole Food Store and a parking garage.

Freed & Associates may modify its designs for the building so that it houses office space, rather than condominiums, Gruber said. But any changes would first need to be submitted to the city and approved.

At least 15 percent of the condo units have already been sold. But Gruber said sales had stagnated.
All in the roll of the dice, apparently.

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