For an overview of the full project and goals, download a 6-page PDF description…

For more recent history, videos and planning concepts, check out the SASY neighborhood's Garver page…




Garver Feed Mill
Neighborhood Icon, a Long-Awaited Re-making

The Garver Feed Mill is the last standing sugar beet processing plant building in Wisconsin. It was built a century ago near the mouth of Starkweather Creek, then on the only spit of solid ground in a wide wetland. Neighbors called it the Sugar Castle. Their fathers and brothers went to work there, then and after it changed hands in 1925 to become a state-of-the-art feed mill. Today it remains as an iconic local memory of Madison's manufacturing past.

After the feed business closed down in 1996, 20 years of neglect, vandalism and fire have left the builing shell in seriously deteriorated condition. The once-bustling work yard became a convenient dumping area for the Streets department. Piles of street snow melt into trash and salt that leaches into the creek; smelly mountains of composting street leaves grow yearly, with only a fraction usable for sale by the adjacent Olbrich Botanical Gardens.

Many in the City and the neighborhood weren't idle. A decade of citizen visioning sessions, professional evaluations, and masterplanning exercises led to near success at re-creating Garver as an arts incubator by local developer CommonWealth. That effort flounderd with the economic downturn of 2008-10.

A 2006 City committee inspection (left) and a 2011 citizen tour (above & below) revealed ongoing deterioration.


Food Production Returns to Garver
Renewed hope arrived in 2015 with a rebounding economy. The City selected a team led by Baum Development to transform the building and grounds into a solar-powered regional destination, as home to a dozen or more artisan food & berverage producers. Plus an innovative hospitality concept that will feature 50 microlodges — tiny homes-as-hotel — set in an edible urban-ag demonstration landscape, alongside parkland with trails and improved creek-side access. An early site plan below shows the basic concepts…

(below) Design Coalition's Roger measures each window and door as part of the historic restoration documentation. The team includes site planners & architects from Smith Group/JJR and builders from Bachmann Construction.

The microlodge hospitality concept is one of tiny homes arranged in clusters of 10 or so in a lush landscape laced with walking trails. Guests check in (and eat and drink!) at the main building and can experience tiny home living for a few nights or an extended stay. Access to Madison's lakes, sights and other attractions is readily accessible via bike, kayak, bus or car.

The first three microlodges are currently being built by the students of the Madison College construction program. Our entry is dubbed, perhaps unimagineatively, the DC Cottage (above). It's designed with universal ('barrier-free") features, thoroughgoing energy efficiency and low-toxin, resource-efficient construction, and that feature crucial to pleasant Wisconsin summer living: a screened porch.

With our intimate familiarity with the local entitlement process, the site and the surrounding neighborhoods, we helped the team to conceptualize the overall project and secure selection by the City. We're also helping facilitate various aspects of the project, such as foundation systems for the microlodges, selection criteria for tiny-homes, and working through the project's unique zoning and permitting process.

The site will include a new storage and mantenance building for the use of Olbrich Botanical Gardens; its design will recall the industrial metal sheds that once populated the Feed Mill work yard.