Despite protest song, city advances apartments at former Market Square Theater News

One Madison resident frustrated with a development proposal broke into song at a Planning Commission meeting this week to voice her opposition to replacing a closed theater with apartments.

Clare Boulanger sang to the city panel about how Normandy Square, which is adjacent to the development, houses seniors and that:

“We suffer vexations from such irritations as noise, traffic and dust/

Building apartments near us will certainly kick up some dirt and after that’s gone our woes will go on cuz traffic and noise will still hurt/

There’s a lot of new housing around us/

but none that so troubles our hearts.”

Plan Commission chair Ledell Zellers thanked Boulanger for her performance, and Boulanger replied “My regular words weren’t getting me anywhere!”

Local developer Walter Wayne Development has plans to raze the former Market Square Theater and build a six-story, 87-unit apartment building with 2,200 square feet of commercial space at 6604 Odana Road.

The Plan Commission voted unanimously (despite Boulanger’s song) to approve the development, which will add housing density to an area that is heavily commercial.

Market Square, which showed second-run films at discounted ticket prices, had initially closed in March 2020 because of the pandemic. The theater briefly reopened before it abruptly closed permanently in February 2022.

Streaming services and other platforms have diminished the need for second-run cinemas, although according to the developer’s proposal there were early attempts to find a different theater provider to take over the cinema.

“The theater ceased doing business in March of 2020,” Apex Real Estate chairman Bruce Bosben told the Plan Commission. Apex owns Market Square. “They resumed doing business briefly in 2022. We haven’t gotten any rent since March of 2020. We believe that having a redevelopment of this site is in order since we can’t find another theater who wants to take it as is.”

The apartments are expected to be market rate and the City Council is scheduled to vote on final zoning approval Feb. 7.

483 new apartments coming to far east side

The Plan Commission also approved a proposal from T. Wall Enterprises, a local developer, to construct four buildings with 483 apartment units on Madison’s far east side at 4205 Portage Rd. The development, called The Winston, is seeking to address what is commonly referred to as “missing middle” housing.

Missing middle housing is not the same as low-income or affordable housing, but offers apartments at a rate lower than the standard market rate. The developer wants to use that pricing to attract people who work at places near the development such as American Center, East Towne Mall, UW Health and the far East Washington Avenue corridor.

The Plan Commission’s vote represents final approval of the project development, although the City Council will vote on whether to approve dividing the project site into four separate lots, which is common in phased developments that feature multiple buildings.

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