A Madison resident frustrated with a development proposal burst into song at a Planning Commission meeting this week to voice her opposition to replacing a shuttered theater with apartments.

Clare Boulanger sang to the city panel about how Normandy Square, which is adjacent to the development, is home to older people and that:

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

Building apartments near our home will definitely raise dirt and after that our woes will continue as traffic and noise will continue to hurt /

There are many new accommodations around us/

but nothing that troubles our hearts so much.”

Plan Commission Chair Ledell Zellers thanked Boulanger for his performance, and Boulanger replied, “My usual words were getting me nowhere!”

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

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

Market Square, which showed second-run movies at discounted prices, originally closed in March 2020 due to the pandemic. The theater briefly reopened before abruptly closing permanently in February 2022.

Streaming services and other platforms have reduced the need for second-run theaters, although, according to the developer’s proposal, there have been early attempts to find another theater provider to take over the theater.

“The theater ceased operations in March 2020,” Apex Real Estate Chairman Bruce Bosben told the Planning Commission. Apex owns Market Square. “They briefly resumed operations in 2022. We have not received rent since March 2020. We believe there is a need to redevelop this site as we cannot find another theater willing to take it as is.”

Apartments are expected to be market priced and City Council is expected to vote on final zoning approval on February 7.

483 new apartments coming to Far East Side

The Plan Commission also approved a proposal from T. Wall Enterprises, a local developer, to build four buildings with 483 apartments on the far east side of Madison at 4205 Portage Rd. The development, called The Winston, seeks to address what what is commonly referred to as “missing intermediate” housing.

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

The Plan Commission’s vote represents final approval for the development of the project, although City Council will vote on whether to approve the division of the project site into four separate lots, which is common in incremental developments that consist of several buildings.

Share your thoughts on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and city will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please limit your letter to 250 words or less.

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