Monroe Street businesses relocating to controversial new mixed
Two longtime Monroe Street businesses will take the bottom floor commercial space in a new four story development that created a firestorm of neighborhood opposition last year.
The Knitting Tree and Monroe Street Shoe Repair will move into “The Monroe,” at the corner of Knickerbocker and Monroe streets, when it opens later this summer. It’s not a huge move distance wise, as both stores are already located on the 2600 block of the street in a brick two story commercial strip.
But Knitting Tree owner Jackie Shanahan says the opportunity to double the amount of store space to 1,400 square feet, along with getting five off street parking spaces for customers, was too good to pass up.
“This will give us a chance to carry more jewelry, more handbags and turn into more of a boutique,” says Shanahan, who purchased the 40 year old business eight years ago with her husband Mark.
Monroe Street Shoe Repair owner Sally Kopecky says the new location is 200 square feet larger than her current cramped space, allowing for an expansion of the retail store which features the iconic Minnetonka moccasins.
“But the big thing is getting that parking,” says Kopecky, who learned the trade at the Cobbler Shop and Cecil’s Sandals before setting out on her own 34 years ago.
The redevelopment project at the corner of Monroe and Knickerbocker streets includes 21 apartment units on the upper floors and replaces a vacant gas station. But due to the size of the project and the loss of views, among other reasons, it has been an unwelcome change for some living in the leafy green area of single family homes near Lake Wingra.
Still, owner Fred Rouse says he’s gotten good feedback from neighbors, who feared congestion and parking problems similar to Parman Place, another mixed use development from Rouse a half mile southwest on Monroe Street. That development features the Gates Brovi restaurant, which draws big crowds on weekends and evenings and sometimes results in congested street parking.
The Monroefeatures a mix of studio, one and two bedroom apartments with rents ranging from $875 to $1,825 per month.
One upcoming challenge for all Monroe Street businesses and residents over the next two years is the pending reconstruction of the busy commuter corridor. Work is scheduled on the south end from Odana Road to Leonard Street in 2015 and on the north end from Regent to Leonard streets in 2016.
“That’s OK. I’ve lived through two of those already,” says Kopecky of the coming construction. “Business will slow down and then come back. Maybe I’ll be able to take a little more time off.”
While not the largest redevelopment proposed in Madison last year, the Monroe Street project generated a lot of media coverage, in part because nationally acclaimed journalist David Maraniss and his wife own the home next door to the development site.
The project also pitted the neighborhood against its former Ald. Ken Golden and Ald. Sue Ellingson, who backed the development despite resident fears about increased traffic, noise and diminished property values.
Opponents eventually forced a supermajority approval by the City Council, which OK’d the project by a one vote margin. Ellingson has since stepped down from the council, citing family commitments.