A Madison developer will lay out its vision for $17 million in mixed-use artist housing, studio and gallery space before the Cambridge Plan Commission next week.
The proposed three-story Artists Lofts would offer 75 units of affordable housing with rental priority given to “active artists,” said Ted Matkom, Wisconsin market president for developer Gorman & Company, of Madison.
The firm, that would design, construct and manage the property, also has offices in Phoenix, Miami, Denver and Chicago.
Fair housing law allows artist housing to be earmarked for anyone from musicians to writers to painters, Matkom said. He said “active artists” could be doing full or part-time work or be serious hobbyists.
The law “is supposed to allow people who will promote art, to live in a community where other like-minded individuals reside,” he said.
Matkom said if the building is not filled by artists, it could be opened to others. Artists “will be put at the top,” of any wait list, he said.
The project, envisioned to sit on three acres at Kenseth Way and Katie Court, adjacent to The Vineyards at Cambridge neighborhood, the Dancing Goat Distillery and the Cambridge Winery, has already attracted significant public dollars.
In September, it was awarded a $1.28 million affordable housing grant from Dane County.
In response to local concern about what “affordable” would entail, Gorman & Company has said the apartments would not be publicly rent-subsidized. Tenants would have “to pay their rent and have income, along with an acceptable credit history,” a recent release from the firm said.
The project is envisioned to include 20 one-bedroom, 41 two-bedroom and 14 three-bedroom units. Interior amenities would include a community room and lounge, fitness room, management and program offices, underground and surface parking and “entrepreneurial artist workspace,” Gorman & Company has said.
A Dane County release last month said all 75 units would be affordable to households making 30 to 80 percent of Dane County’s median income. Planned are 15 units at 30 percent, 30 units at 50 percent, 16 units at 60 percent, and 14 units at 80 percent of the county’s median income.
Dane County’s current median income is about $70,000 for a single person and $100,000 for a family of four.
“The average incomes targeted will be 60 percent of that number,” or about $42,000 for an individual and $60,000 for a family of four, Gorman & Company’s release said. “This program is completely different from ‘Section 8 housing’ in which the government pays all or a portion of a tenant rent,” it noted.
Gorman & Company hasn’t yet closed on the site’s purchase from Cambridge native Matt Kenseth. It does have a contract to purchase it, Matkom said.
The Cambridge Plan Commission meeting is at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 12 at the Amundson Community Center, 200 Spring St., Cambridge.
This would not be Gorman & Company’s first foray into artist housing and work space.
Matkom is currently the point person for Gorman & Company’s Riverside Lofts in Jefferson.
Similarly envisioned as artist living and work space, in a rehabbed industrial building along the Rock River, the Riverside Lofts opened last month. Leases have now been signed for about 15 of its 36 rental units, Matkom said.
Gorman & Company also in recent years has developed Union Corners on Winnebago Street in Madison.
Matkom, who grew up in Madison, said he has long been aware of Cambridge’s vibrant arts community and felt strongly once the Jefferson project gained traction that a similar development might be a good fit for Cambridge
“I’ve always associated Cambridge with artists,” he said. “I said, you know, this thing’s got to be in Cambridge. I think people would come from Fort…and everywhere.. and make this an artists’ mecca.”
Matkom said Gorman & Company is poised to submit by December an application for tax credits from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. It would hear on the approval of those tax credits by the spring of 2021.
According to WHEDA, this would be the first low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) affordable housing development project in Cambridge.
Matkom called the recent announcement of the affordable housing grant from Dane County “ really exciting.”
And the potential WHEDA tax credits “are very important for our financing,” he continued. Gorman & Company would expect to “sell these tax credits on the open marketplace,” he said. In tandem with the county grant, that should cover construction costs and any related debt, allowing the company to offer reduce rent while still keeping the project profitable.
“You are putting people in high-end market rate housing in an affordable fashion,” Matkom said.
If approved by the village, Matckom said the project would likely take about a year to construct.
Matkom said the Plan Commission presentation on Oct. 12 is purely informational, to introduce the idea. He doesn’t expect any action from the commission that night.
If well-received, the company would return with a proposal in November to rezone the three-acre site from commercial to mixed-use, to allow for the apartments.
Matkom said he sees good potential synergy between the Artists Lofts and The Vineyards at Cambridge neighborhood, distillery and winery.
“It could add to the whole ambiance they are trying to create there,” he said.
He urged the Cambridge community to “embrace the diversity of incomes.”
“I think it will bring a dynamic to this community, on an arts level” that Cambridge will be able to get behind, he said.
“Let us do it and let us show you how great it can be.”
Laurie Struss, president of the Cambridge Arts Council, said Matkom has previously shared his vision with her.
Struss said if it lures working artists to Cambridge, who would benefit from the reduced rent, that could infuse vital new energy into the local art scene.
Struss said Matkom appears to have “a great vision for Cambridge.”
“It makes sense. I love the concept as he described it to me,” Struss said.
She said she has artist friends in other communities who live and work in similar spaces.
“He is trying to build that kind of camaraderie here, in a place where people are already living and making art. I love that he is thinking of Cambridge in that way. If they are serious about making this a hub for artists, that’s exciting.”