A UW-Madison student housing cooperative whose building the university has slated for demolition will likely look off campus for a new place to live because the two parties are seemingly at an impasse.
The Zoe Bayliss Women’s Cooperative has leased space at 915 W. Johnson St. from UW-Madison since the 1950s and is one of the last student housing co-ops in the state. As Downtown rents rise, the co-op is also one of the few affordable housing options left for UW-Madison students.
UW-Madison, however, plans to demolish the building after the end of next school year to begin construction on a new academic building that will pave the way for the eventual teardown of the antiquated Humanities Building. The demolition plans have been in the works and communicated to the co-op for more than a decade, university officials have said.
The project leaves the couple dozen Zoe Bayliss residents searching for a new home for the 2023-24 school year, which they had hoped UW-Madison would provide in the form of a similar stand-alone building.
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The university’s latest — and final — offer is renovating part of Phillips Hall, 1950 Willow Drive, into a student cooperative community housing 34 students. University Housing spokesperson Brendon Dybdahl estimated the renovation would cost about $3 million. The proposed design would add features common in a cooperative living environment, such as a commercial kitchen, central bathroom and lounge space.
Zoe Bayliss residents overwhelmingly voted down the UW-Madison proposal, co-op president Angela Maloney said this week. Objections included increased cost, the lease’s length expanding from nine months to 12 and concern that the arrangement wouldn’t allow the co-op to operate independently.
University Housing director Jeff Novak said the new rate — about $120,000 annually, including utilities — would cost residents less per month over 12 months than the co-op’s current nine-month rate, which is roughly $104,000 with utilities. He called the deal “very fair,” with rent that still falls well below market value in the Madison co-op community, does not account for utility costs in the summer months and includes air conditioning, an amenity the current building lacks.
Zoe Bayliss would continue to manage their own expenses and decide what to individually charge residents, including whether to offer nine-month leases, Dybdahl said.
Zoe Bayliss is monitoring the private housing market over the next year to find a place to purchase or lease long term, Maloney said. But UW-Madison can also change its mind and make another offer.
“We’re pretty hopeful we’ll be able to figure something out,” she said, noting a fundraiser slated for later this month.
Zoe Bayliss is free to turn UW-Madison down, but the university doesn’t have plans nor an obligation to provide other alternatives, officials said. Regardless of the co-op’s decision, UW-Madison is moving forward on the plan to create a student cooperative-style community in Phillips Hall.
“We’ve had a 70-year relationship with Zoe Bayliss and we want to continue to have it,” Novak said in a Friday interview. “We want to partner with them but if they choose not to, we understand.
“Since 1955, UW-Madison has offered a cooperative and that’s not changing.”
Photos: Zoe Bayliss Co-op, a women’s student housing cooperative at UW