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Developer proposes affordable housing, restaurant space that would shrink Babe’s Grill and Bar

September 20, 2018

A developer is proposing a $20.6 million, mixed-use project with affordable housing, including units for the formerly homeless and veterans and probably new, smaller space for the popular Babe’s Grill and Bar on the West Side.

Stone House Development wants to demolish the existing Babe’s, 5614 Schroeder Road, to build a four-story, U-shaped building that would likely relocate the grill and bar to 4,000 square feet on part of the first floor facing the road and provide 96 apartments in the rest of the structure.

The housing would include 15 market rate units and 81 units for those making up to 30 percent, 50 percent, or 60 percent of Dane County median income — between $24,780 and $49,560 for a family of three. Ten of those units would be set aside for formerly homeless families now residing in permanent supportive housing with future support services provided by The Road Home, and 10 units for veterans with Dane County Veterans Services providing services.

“There is a proven demand for affordable housing throughout the entire city of Madison,” Stone House principal Helen Bradbury said. “Our ‘Overlook at Hilldale’ is just over two miles away, is 100 percent affordable, was built in 2011, is the same size as the Schroeder Road property and has a waiting list of over six hundred people.”

Stone House has already built affordable housing in the city with commercial and restaurant space, Bradbury said.

The project’s commercial/restaurant space would feature outdoor seating facing Schroeder Road. The building would have 82 underground parking spaces and a courtyard in the middle of the U-shape with a grilling and children’s play area. There would be 57 surface parking spaces on the east side of the site.

The Schroeder Road site has good linkages to jobs, services, transportation, the Lussier YMCA, and more, Bradbury said.

Alds. Keith Furman, 19th District, who represents the site, and Matt Phair, 20th District, have set a neighborhood meeting for 7 p.m. Thursday at Falk Elementary School, 6323 Woodington Way.

Stone House and four other developers have submitted applications for city Affordable Housing Fund assistance at separate sites. The five projects would cost a combined $96 million with the developers seeking a total $10.2 million in city assistance and City Council decisions expected in coming months.

“We’re currently reviewing these projects and we’ve got some difficult decisions to make,” said Jim O’Keefe, city community development director. “Not all of these projects are going to get funded.”

Later this year, the developers are also expected to apply for a total $48.3 million in federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits that are administered by the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. WHEDA’s decisions will be made in the spring.

The city assistance and WHEDA tax credits are critical to any of the projects moving forward.

Babe’s, named after famed New York Yankee slugger Babe Ruth, has been a city fixture for sports enthusiasts for three decades. It opened in Heritage Square in 1988 and moved to its current location in a 9,600-square-foot building on Schroeder Road near Vitense Golfland in 1993.

The business and property owner, Lynn Haker, has an agreement to sell the site to Stone House and retain up to 5,000 square feet of condominium space in the new building if the developer secures financing for the housing project. The preferred option is to reopen Babe’s in the condominium space, Haker said.

“That’s our goal,” he said. “It’s certainly not a done deal.”

In the meantime, Babe’s will remain open with business as usual as Stone House awaits decisions on financing in coming months, Haker said. “We’ve been very fortunate over the last 30 years,” he said. “We’re going to keep keeping on.”

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