Quisling Rises Again


The middle-aged son of a retired UW-Madison professor, John Potter does not fit the stereotype of an affordable housing tenant.

But then the Quisling Terrace Apartments aren’t your typical low-income rental units.

The $6.8 million overhaul of the historic Quisling Clinic at 2 W. Gorham, financed through the use of federal housing and restoration tax credits, is clearly unique. New construction inside the curving blond brick shell has created 60 apartment units of varying sizes and layouts.

“It’s like living inside an art deco ocean liner,” said Potter, 57, who closed his small retail business in Lake Geneva two years ago and returned to live in his native Madison.

Potter is now selling house wares and gifts at Tellus Mater, 409 State St., while also caring for his elderly parents. But his $14,000 annual income puts Potter within the guidelines of the Section 42 housing program.

“I’m too young for social security but too old to get a good job,” said Potter, whose father is Van R. Potter, professor emeritus of medical science.

The program provides moderate-priced housing for persons earning no more than 60 percent of the median income in Dane County. For a one-person household, that’s $26,880; for a two-person household it’s $30,720. Full-time students are not eligible.

About 70 percent of the 60 units at the Quisling are designated “affordable,” with rents ranging from $495 to $750 per month. The remaining units are market priced from $585 to $1,000.

Developers of the Quisling staged a grand opening Wednesday, featuring local officials including Mayor Sue Bauman.

Completed in September, the Quisling apartments are already 90 percent occupied, said manager Maggi Woodruff. “The majority of the tenants are young professionals, with a few retired folks tossed in,” she said.

The building features a mix of efficiency, one and two-bedroom units, with parking for 60 vehicles underneath. A rooftop terrace includes seating areas and grills. The community room offers a fitness facility.

A familiar Madison landmark, the Quisling Clinic was actually facing the wrecking ball in 1998 after Physicians Plus decided to end its health care services there. Developer Gary Gorman was planning to raze the building and replace it with 100 units of new apartments. But after strong objections from the Capitol Neighborhoods group, city landmarks officials and others, Gorman decided to save the building by pursuing the historic renovation/affordable housing route.

Gorman & Company already had experience with the Section 42 program, including an $8.3 million renovation of the historic Garton Toy Factory in Sheboygan into 72 apartment units and two other projects there. Gorman is the largest user of Section 42 housing credits in the state, according to publicist Susanne Voeltz.

For the Quisling, Gorman again teamed with Lend Lease of Boston, which provided $3.8 million in equity financing. Another $3 million in debt financing was secured from local lenders Anchor Bank, Park Bank and Home Savings. Low-income housing tax credits were issued by the Wisconsin Housing and Development Authority with federal rehabilitation tax credits awarded through the Department of Interior. But Gorman soon discovered the project was going to run way over initial cost estimates. “We ended up eating about $800,000 ourselves,” said Gorman, whose Madison-based company has developed over $95 million worth of real estate projects.

Much of the cost came in trying to preserve the architectural integrity of the Quisling. Designed in an art moderne style by architect Lawrence Monberg in 1946, the building features curvilinear corners, a flat roof and an ocular window on the Gorham Street facade. Local architects Gary Brink and Colin Godding teamed on the redesign.

The clinic was originally a house built in 1890 that was later converted into an apartment building. In the 1940s, the Quisling family acquired the property and set out to build a modern clinic on the busy downtown corner.

The brick clinic was built as a shell around the existing wood frame house. In 1968 to expand the clinic, a two-story addition was added connecting to the neighboring Hart house, a historic residence dating to 1896.

Because of the piecemeal original design, the reconstruction required driving steel I-beams into the ground to provide stability for the existing brick walls.

“This was the most difficult construction project I’ve ever been involved with,” said Gorman.

At the same time, Gorman said the project has showed that affordable housing needn’t be a dirty word.

“It was a difficult process but I think we’ve earned some credibility with the neighborhood. The end result has been very positive,” he said.

Downtown Ald. Mike Verveer agrees. “Given all the negatives and hard work that went into this project, to have it come out with this affordable component is very exciting,” he said.

Verveer said he and Gorman have even discussed other options for more Section 42 housing downtown. Heartland Properties has also developed tax credit housing at 621 W. Main St.

For tenant Potter, the best thing is being able to afford a new apartment in a landmark building in the heart of the city. “I’ve always loved the downtown and historic buildings,” he said. “But never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be able to live in the Quisling.”