A developer is pursuing a massive housing project with 463 apartments in four buildings with underground parking near East Towne, the first big development proposal since the city approved the sweeping Greater East Towne Mall Area Plan in February.

That plan covers an area roughly the size of the central Isthmus and envisions much more housing, denser retail, high-rise office buildings, new streets and, maybe one day, replacing some or all of the mall.

Forward Management of Madison is proposing to build the housing on a vacant, 14.5-acre site at 2101, 2109 and 2115 East Springs Drive, next to Bowl-A-Vard-Lanes.

The project, to be known as Signature Pointe Apartments, would offer 41 efficiencies, 222 one-bedroom, 186 two-bedroom and 14 three-bedroom apartments in four four-story buildings. It would include 357 surface parking stalls and 350 underground stalls, with additional space for bicycles inside and outdoors.

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The development would feature a clubhouse, swimming pool with large deck, dog park and green spaces.

Dan Schmidt, president of Forward Management, which manages 60 projects with roughly 3,500 apartments in the Madison area, could not be reached.

Ald. Gary Halverson, 17th District, who represents the site, had a favorable first impression.

“I am encouraged that we are starting to see developments, like the Signature Pointe Apartments, which will help bring new life into the greater East Towne area,” he said. “The influx of new residents will help bolster the businesses within the East Towne area as well as encourage new business growth. The addition of 400-plus new units will help toward easing our housing shortage.”

The Greater East Towne Area Plan, adopted on Feb. 22, will provide guidance on future land use, housing, economic development, parks and open space, transportation and more with the intent of shaping a complete new neighborhood.

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The area is now characterized by swaths of single-use, auto-oriented retail, restaurants and some office development. The area also has much natural area, including the Starkweather Creek corridor that serves as the backbone of the Starkweather Creek watershed. And it’s a gateway along East Washington Avenue to the East Isthmus and Downtown, directly served by the Interstate.

The area plan shows buildings up to 12 stories at the center and a mix of heights and uses in the 820-acre planning area, which is bounded by a Wisconsin & Southern rail line, Interstate 39-90-94, East Washington Avenue and North Stoughton Road.

The plan seeks to imagine the future for an area that’s been buffeted from changes in the retail economy and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan comes as the city prepares for Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT, a high-frequency, high-capacity, limited-stop service with special buses running on city streets and dedicated lanes on an initial route running from East Towne to West Towne starting in 2024. BRT is expected to spur development along its route.

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Forward Management’s proposal is consistent with the area plan, the developer said in a submission to the city. The area plan recommends medium density residential land use for the site with adjacent properties to remain as either general commercial uses or open space.

The developer hopes to start construction in the fall and, if approvals are secured, to complete the project in 2024.

“This is the first major proposal to come forward, and demonstrates that there is indeed interest in development of more residential uses in the area, as recommended by the Greater East Towne Area Plan,” Planning Division director Heather Stouder said. “We hope that others will follow.”


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