East Side History Madison’s Blog

By and for the East Side History Club, a project of the Goodman Community Center

The “Old Sugar Castle” awaits new fate: what will become of the Garver Property?

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on November 4, 2011

Photo accompanied Wisconsin State Journal article

The fate of the beloved but delapidated Garver building behind Olbrich Botanical Gardens is again in play, since Commonwealth Development pulled back on its plans for an arts incubator earlier this year.

The “Sugar Castle” about 100 years ago…

On 11/3/11 a public meeting was held at Olbrich to seek community input on the project. A powerpoint deck presented by City Planning Staffer Dan Rolfs recapped a recent report to the City Council requested by the mayor. The full report is available online here.

Several concerns are spurring the city to move quickly on a decision regarding the fate of the building now that Commonwealth’s plans have collapsed–primarily the fear that the building itself will collapse before a practical solution can be found.

Other issues include the building’s landmark status, deed restrictions, challenging financial picture for adaptive reuse, the city “surplus” process that applies in this case, and the referendum process required because of the property’s proximity to both Lake Monona and Starkweather Creek.

Scenarios covered in the planning department report range from a $16 million total rehab suitable for commercial use (requiring partnership with a developer/tenant) to a $1.1 million demolition with environmental cleanup including removal of lead paint, asbestos, and capping or filling of pits to remove danger. In between are options for saving the core building estimated at $4.2 million, or stabilizing the south wall to maintain only the facade (“the greatest architectual gem of the building,” according to Rolfs) estimated at $2.8 million.

Questions from attendees included how cost estimates were arrived at and Olbrich Botanical Society’s expectation of continued use of about 14,000 sq. ft. of the property for cold storage and engine repair. While Olbrich no longer has an interest in the property, having ceded their deed restriction some years ago, they have continued to use the property anticipating of Commonwealth’s project which would have included space for their use.

Mayor Soglin has asked for a final decision on the property’s fate by May 2012.

A meeting with the Board of Park Commissioners, open to the public, takes place on November 9th at Warner Park Community Center, 6:30 p.m..

The south facade, more recently.

On October 12, the Wisconsin State Journal ran an article titled “City should put cost of demolition toward preserving Garver mill, Soglin says

A few days later developer Darrell Wild posted the following response to Madison.com:

“Dear Editor: I worked for Garver’s feed 61 years ago. The old Chicago common brick building has real texture and warmth. The look reminds me of Pat O’Brien’s bar and restaurant in New Orleans. But because of the size I think the property should have two or maybe three microbreweries all operating with a big hall like Burgermeister Garten in Berlin, Germany. This could be not only world class, but known around the world.”

Additional links from the city planning report:


One Response to “The “Old Sugar Castle” awaits new fate: what will become of the Garver Property?”

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