HPC approves Parallel Housing proposal

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By Nick Nunn staff writer

The Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) approved an application by Parallel Housing, Inc., for the construction of a primary structure near the intersection of West Jefferson Street and Fifth Street. The structure will be a two-story, multi-unit building, which Parallel Housing plans to use for a senior housing development.

Parallel Housing’s application first came before the HPC during last month’s meeting for the first round of a conceptual review. Preservation Planner Ken Kocher noted that the proposed design is an “unusual building type” for Madison, as Madison did not have this type of apartment building, historically. However, he noted that the building is in the style of institutional buildings of the area and said that its location near the edge of the historic district mitigates its unusual nature.

Kocher said that the use of blind openings creates a natural “feeling” of a traditional window placement and that the general “U” shape of the building will create the impression of a commons in the front of the building. A parking lot was also included in the application, but Kocher said that he expects that there will be changes to the general parking structure once construction gets underway.

“They’ll probably be a lot of tweaking along the way,” said Kocher. Because of the changes expected to occur during the development process, Kocher recommended that the HPC have changes in architectural details and hardscape details available for approval by staff and one member of the executive committee if they decide to approve the application Madison City Council Member Joe DiLetto stated that he thinks that Parallel Housing has “done a great job” on planning for the housing development.

HPC Member Richard Simpson moved to approve of the application, noting the mitigating factors of the site being on the edge of the historic district and that changes in architectural and hardscape plans be approvable by staff and a member of the executive committee. The HPC also heard from Denise Peeples, who applied for acceptance of the installation of gas porch lighting for her porch at 596 Old Post Road.

Kocher stated that, in recent years, the HPC typically has not allowed gas lighting, saying that “Madison did not have gas lighting” historically. Kocher recommended that the HPC not approve of the use of gas lighting, but instead approve of electric light fixtures similar to the desired gas fixture. Peeples said that, if the gas lighting was not approved, she would more than likely leave the existing lighting in place. Simpson stated that he felt hesitant to overturn recent decisions regarding gas lighting.

“I feel like we should continue to go with that guideline,” said Simpson. HPC Member Chris McCauley also said that gas lighting would be an “inaccurate” historic detail in Madison.” Jack Miles, former HPC member in attendance during the meeting, pointed out that there are several houses in Madison that have gas lighting currently, and that the HPC had approved gas lighting while he was on the commission. Simpson stated that the desire to discontinue allowing the use of gas lighting came after Miles’ tenure on the HPC and stemmed from the realization that gas lighting in Madison would be historically inaccurate.

Miles offered to do a quick survey of existing Madison homes for the applicant, so she could have more information on the subject to give the HPC. Peeples then withdrew her application in order to obtain more research on the subject. The HPC also approved: the construction of an enclosed connection between the primary structure at 903 Dixie Avenue and a garage, noting the mitigating factors of the visibility of the proposed connection, the proximity of the existing buildings, and the existing hyphen roof. the construction of an addition, window changes, and porch changes at 583 Foster Street, noting that the reuse of an existing window which was not part of a significant pattern, and the visibility of the alterations.

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