When asked how the Longfellow Lofts apartments came to be, Randy Alexander of the Alexander Co. answers in true Randy Alexander style: “That’s so boring,” he says.
But as it turns out, the history of Longfellow Lofts at 210 S. Brooks St. in Madison is anything but boring.
A tale of two halves
The apartment complex is a tale of two halves — one, a renovation of the historic Longfellow School that has been transformed into 40 apartment units, and the other, a new, 110,760-square-foot building with 64 units. Old and new are connected by an adjoining courtyard where tenants can enjoy an outdoor kitchen or gather around a fire pit.
Longfellow School was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1996, and the Alexander Co., which specializes in breathing new life into aging structures, retained many of the building’s original elements as focal points in the apartments, such as the school’s large windows, original lockers, and chalkboards. The school’s old auditorium is now a movie theater for tenants.
“The old gyms are now two-story apartments,” Alexander says. Basketball hoops stand where they always did, but now they’re inside the apartments that were constructed around them.
When Alexander Co. first got involved, Meriter Hospital owned the building but had outgrown it, and the old school was about to stand vacant.
“Once a building becomes vacant, it becomes a sterile piece of a neighborhood,” says Nic Alexander, Randy’s son and director of marketing for the company. Designing something that attracts and engages people, he explains, creates an economic benefit and saves green space elsewhere.
Plus, he adds, historic renovations tend to be greener. “When you do a historic building, the amount of materials you’re harvesting is greatly reduced because you can reuse so much of it.
“A normal construction project might mean spending two-thirds of your budget on material and one-third on labor. With a historic building, that kind of flips, and you spend more on labor than materials. So you create more jobs.”
This article was first published in InBusiness Magazine by Jan Wilson.