Legacy buildings

Lithosphere aims for humane living.
0623 Ec Startup

Lithosphere LLC is a commercial development firm run by Jason Iverson and Chris Gosch, whose projects showcase functionality, design, and a more collaborative approach to livable communities. “We’re building community, not just buildings,” Iverson says.

The limited liability company may be new, but the co-owners are well known and respected in their own fields. Iverson spent his earlier career in IT before moving into real estate, and Gosch, an architect and engineer, has designed buildings in Madison and elsewhere under Populace, his own LLC.

With common interests in sustainability, the two men formed Lithosphere in late 2021 to focus on multifamily and multipurpose developments. The firm’s soon-to-be-completed Luminous project at 216 N. Hamilton St. is a live-work condo building designed to allow business owners to live or rent the units above their work or retail spaces.

The men are now focused on a multiuse development in Monona replacing the former Monona Gardens Restaurant at 6501 Bridge Road. Monona Gardens closed last fall after 19 years. Its former owner, Nedzmi “Nick” Semovski and his brother-in-law, Vasko Zyteja, who owns Dairyland Family Restaurant on Cottage Grove Road, will become majority owners in the development when it is completed.

When Iverson and Gosch learned that “besa” in Albanian translates to oath, or word of honor, they christened the project Besa Monona to honor Semovski’s family heritage. As proposed, it will include 29 apartments, 16 live-work condos, 3,200 square feet of commercial space, and underground parking (no surface parking).

A core component is the building’s eco-friendly geothermal heating and cooling, which will result in lower monthly utility costs for buyers and renters, Iverson explains. “We’re going to be at the low end of market rate for a luxury product. While we can’t reduce rental cost per square foot, we think it’s important to reduce the cost of living for low- and middle-income families, the missing middle. That’s a big win.”

Another big win is that Semovski and Zyteja will benefit long term from the development. “Instead of simply buying the land from them, the land was invested into the project, which was a big component in getting the project done,” Iverson explains. “They’ll be majority owners in the development for as long as they want and still be able to be part of the community.

“For us, it’s a true legacy perspective,” he adds. “Why not bring people along who have worked so hard for so long and lift them up to make sure their families benefit from the sale long term?”

Besa Monona is expected to break ground this summer and be completed 12 months later.

Lithosphere has several other discussions in progress, mostly in surrounding communities, and Iverson admits some aspects of their vision still need to be worked out. They want to attract businesses to their developments — perhaps a day care or senior living — that might ultimately be owned by the developments themselves. “We’re really just looking for ways to make the development a communal versus a developer thing,” Iverson says.

Admittedly a “newbie” to the industry, Iverson would like to see more collaboration between developers and communities. “We absolutely need housing here, and developers typically see the benefits of that because they’re assuming all the risk, but is there a collaboration effort that can happen where everybody’s winning?”

He remains hopeful that the answer is yes. “We believe people should live in a humane environment, not one that’s rubber-stamped, and we’re trying to get others to see, through example, that you can go a bit above and design for better living environments.”

Lithosphere LLC
(608) 728-7574