New structures promise to spark business and culture in 2018 and beyond.
Later this year, the corner of East Washington Avenue and Livingston Street will include three major developments including the Gebhardt Building [above] and Frank Productions’ new concert hall, The Sylvee.
Photo by Eppstein Uhen
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From the pages of In Business magazine.
Towerin changes are coming in 2018, from East Washington Avenue to Duluth Trading Co.’s new headquarters in Mount Horeb, as development continues to alter Dane County’s commercial landscape.
The most visible and most anticipated of the developments opening this year will occur in the Capitol East District and include the Spark building from American Family Insurance, including the long awaited StartingBlock entrepreneurial space, the Gebhardt Building, and Frank Productions’ new, state-of-the-art concert venue, The Sylvee.
But other projects are also coming online this year that deserve recognition, many of which we showcase in the next few pages.
Otto Gebhardt, president and CEO of Gebhardt Development, has been transforming the city’s Capitol East District over the last decade, bringing high-density residential and retail to “the Ave” and making the area “cool” again.
It’s therefore fitting that the eastsider who grew up in the Orton Park neighborhood and used to play hide and seek in the Capitol as a youngster is about to open his third major project on East Washington.
With The Constellation done and the Galaxie mostly complete, the developer is on track to open the Gebhardt Building across the street, which includes Frank Productions’ 40,000-square-foot Sylvee concert venue.
Steps away from the Gebhardt Building, American Family Insurance is building The Spark, which will include StartingBlock, its major tenant, the DreamBank, and offices for about 200 “AmFam” corporate employees.
The Spark building from American Family Insurance will be home to StartingBlock, DreamBank, and some American Family corporate offices. Photo by Eppstein Uhen.
The city’s decision to build a public parking ramp across Main Street instantly tripled the development’s square footage. Now 300,000 square feet, the entire corner, Gebhardt says, “is probably one of the largest private office complexes built in downtown Madison in a long time,” adding more jobs, more retail, and more tax base.
The Gebhardt Building will include a new Vintage Brewing Co. restaurant and bar on the ground floor, and office space on floors two through four.
The 40,000-square-foot, street-level Sylvee will front Livingston Street and extend back to Main Street. A four-story office tower will be built above it.
“We’ll have a total of about 100,000 square feet of retail-office in our building alone, not including the Sylvee,” Gebhardt explains.
At the time of this interview, the building was already 50% pre-leased.
Meanwhile, Gebhardt is already eyeing other sites along East Washington Avenue.
“It’s just great to be part of the area’s development,” he says of his old stomping grounds, “and to bring this whole corridor together. We always realized it offered a unique opportunity.”
Joel Plant, CEO of Frank Productions in Madison, can hardly contain his excitement about The Sylvee, the nickname of Frank family matriarch, Sylvia. When it opens later this year, the general-admission concert venue will be unlike anything the area has seen, he promises.
“The goal is that nobody will leave saying they couldn’t see or hear the performance. That is how this has been engineered and designed,” Plant says.
In a major announcement, California-based Live Nation Entertainment is purchasing a majority stake in Frank Productions, the family-owned, Madison-based concert promoter, but reportedly the company will continue to operate independently.
In 2017, Frank acquired the High Noon Saloon and merged with Majestic Live, which operates the Majestic Theater. The company will also assume operations of the Orpheum Theater. Additionally, the Frank’s partnership with the Madison Mallards and the Madison Parks Commission (Breese Stevens Field) adds outdoor stages to the entertainment mix.
Plant says Frank Productions has been discussing a niche venue for years. “Without a doubt Madison has been missing out on acts,” he notes, and The Sylvee’s 2,500-person capacity fits perfectly into the entertainment “sweet spot” of 2,500 to 3,000 people.
The three-tiered venue will offer open floor space for standing or dancing, and quick access to bars and restrooms. A limited number of seats will be available on the mezzanine level, with the third level including six privately sold, 12-person suites rarely seen in concert venues.
When the calendar allows, The Sylvee’s space can be scaled down to accommodate smaller events, like business or community meetings or weddings.
The Sylvee is not intended to take business away from Madison’s other music venues, Plant insists. “Our perspective is that there are many acts willing to come to Madison if the right seating or standing option is available. The Franks are very confident in their ability to raise all boats in Madison. We want to enhance and magnify the local music scene. Bringing The Sylvee online will generate more available calendar dates and different styles of music all across the city.”
Ticket prices, he adds, will always be dependent on negotiations with entertainers on a show-by-show basis. “Whether it’s for a 400-capacity venue or a stadium, those things won’t go away.”