Towering presence

New structures promise to spark business and culture in 2018 and beyond.

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.

Eastside visionary

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.”

Music mania

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.”



Sparking commerce

Across a courtyard from the Gebhardt Building is American Family’s new building, The Spark, a project that LeeAnn Glover has been involved with since 2014. Glover, American Family’s director of real estate and workplace solutions, couldn’t be more pleased with how the development is going, despite the challenges of having two large buildings going up simultaneously on a very small footprint.

Inside The Sylvee: Seats were not a priority when Frank Productions’ new, 2,500-capacity concert hall was designed. The general-admission venue will allow concertgoers to experience performances from multiple levels, the third of which includes six private suites (sold separately). Photo by Strang.

“We’re under construction with Findorff while Gebhardt is on their site with Miron, and the coordination between all parties has been great.” The two companies are sharing a tower crane, for example.

“This has been a good partnership between Gebhardt, American Family, and the city of Madison.”

The American Family Insurance Dream Bank and an American Family agent’s office will occupy The Spark’s first floor. StartingBlock will have floors two through four, and some AmFam offices will be situated on floors five through eight. All of the building’s tenants will be able to share a third-floor work café or break space, and there will be rooftop access to a back podium facing East Main Street.

The building is being designed with careful attention to efficiency and sustainability — reusing gray water from the rooftop in its HVAC systems, for example. Geothermal is already in the ground and Glover says the company is hoping that the project will be LEED Gold certified.

“That’s our goal, but we may not know until long after the building is completed.” The company is also hoping for a WELL certification, which relates to healthy workspace design ranging from daylighting to foods served in the vending machines.

Because of the small rooftop and the shape and size of the building, American Family, a huge proponent and user of solar energy, will not be able to install solar panels here. “Geothermal is our renewable,” Glover notes.

AmFam’s portion of the building will open when the city’s parking structure opens, she says. “I can’t take employees [to the new space] without available parking.”

Entrepreneurial home

At long last, burgeoning and innovative startups will have a place to call home when the long-anticipated StartingBlock opens inside The Spark. Chandra Miller Fienen is StartingBlock’s director of operations and programming and has been involved in planning for the past five years. The catalyst, she says, was when American Family and the city of Madison joined as strategic partners.

“The concept of StartingBlock is to create different types of spaces for different types of users,” Miller Fienen explains. With 50,000 square feet [42,000 rentable] over three floors, there will be reception and landing spaces, non-assigned desks, meeting spaces, conference rooms, and offices designed for startup teams of three or four people. A handful of lockable offices and some reserved desk space with lockable drawers also will be available.

At this writing, confirmed tenants included gener8tor, the Doyenne Group, the Common (a Milwaukee company expanding to Madison), and Bunker Labs.

gener8tor will occupy the third floor, which also will have conference rooms, pods of reserved desks, and 6,000-square-feet of open, innovation space. “We envision teams of companies or ecosystem builders that will have pods or desks in this space,” Miller Fienen says. “It will be very, very flexible.”

StartingBlock will have a developer’s area, or “dev cave” space. “We’ve learned that developers of any type (video, software, apps) have their own rules for workspaces, so providing a quiet, secure place for expensive equipment is important.”

Miller Fienen says StartingBlock will likely open around June 1, but will hold off on a grand opening until the rest of the 800 block is in place. “The grand opening isn’t just about one building. It’s about three buildings working together in the larger Capitol East District.”

And none of it would be possible without the buy-in of legacy companies like American Family Insurance and Madison Gas & Electric, she adds.

“MG&E has supported us since the beginning, and AmFam is leading the way on how legacy companies can innovate in a new economy,” she states. “This is a great model that allows us to have a partner that we can connect our companies with. They can gain institutional knowledge, and understand how a legacy company thinks, operates, and innovates. It’s been a great learning experience for StartingBlock, and I believe American Family would say the same.”



Going up in 2018

A selection of projects slated for completion across Dane County in 2018, including project name, description, anticipated completion month, address, information provider, and rendering credit.

1. Sauk Trails Plaza II

Class A+ office | January
1255 Fourier Drive, Madison
The Gialamas Co. Inc. | Iconica



2. Fairway Independent Mortgage

Corporate HQ | January
4750 S. Biltmore Lane, Madison
Kraemer Bros. | Photos: Kraemer Bros.



3. 2323 Crossroads Drive (Park at High Crossing)

Class A+ office | June
2323 Crossroads Drive, Madison
IA Management LLC | Plunkett Raysich Architects LLP

4. Landmark Oaks Development

Class A office | May
2921 Landmark Place, Madison
MIG Commercial Real Estate/Ideal Builders | Potter Lawson

5. ETC Expansion project

Office | June
3031 N. Pleasant View Road, Middleton
1848 Construction | 1848 Construction/Sketchworks Architecture

6. Duluth Trading Co.

Corporate HQ | October
109 Second St., Mount Horeb
JG Development | Plunkett Raysich Architects/National Construction




7. Lion’s Eye Bank of Wis. HQ

Office | August
5003 Tradewinds Pkwy., Madison
Bauer & Raether Builders | Assemblage Architects

8. The Marling

Mixed-use retail/office | August
1827 E. Washington Ave., Madison
Stevens Construction | Tom Rusteberg,

9. Klein’s Floral & Greenhouses

Retail | March
3758 E. Washington Ave., Madison
Supreme Structures | Eric Heise (photo)



10. Omni Technologies HQ

Office | October
900 Oregon Center Drive, Oregon
TJK Design Build


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