A local historic landmark with Romanesque arched windows could be transformed into a picturesque destination along the Yahara River, according to a report by college students.

The century-old former power plant on South Fourth Street has been eyed as a potential restoration project by the Redevelopment Authority for nearly two years. In April, University of Wisconsin-Madison engineering students published a report about the potential repurpose of the building into a cafe or restaurant that was presented to RDA with an estimated cost to repurpose is $1.2 million, according to the report.

The building, most recently used as an impounded bike holding facility, is in disrepair with a cracked exterior, broken windows and insulation coming out of the ceiling.

The RDA, however, voted on July 8 to recommend a potential consultant to complete the nomination work for the building to be listed on the National and State Register of Historic places. After a year of prepping the building for eligibility, the next step is a recommendation from the Finance committee and then approval from the Common Council. Those could happen as early as July 28.

The consultant would cost $2,271, RDA vice chair Roger Springman wrote the Hub in an email.

If the building is listed as an historic place, developers could receive up to 40% of the project costs in tax credits. In the case of the UW students’ report, it would save as much as $391,800, bringing the final cost down as low as $880,800.

The building is owned by the city, and would need council approval to be sold to a developer. The developer would not be beholden to the design, but Springman said that increasing the capacity of the building would balance out the profit margins skewed because of the cost of repair.

And with the potential for rafters from the proposed Whitewater Park and an increase in nearby residents with the Riverfront Redevelopment, a restaurant, tavern or cafe would be an exciting option, he added. The students’ report suggested with an all-glass, three season porch and wooden patio overlooking the river.

Springman compared the potential development to The Heron’s Landing in Jefferson, a repurposed historic building on the river similar to what the power plant could be. He has spoken with the son of the owner and Jefferson’s city administrator about the popular destination.

“It mimics what we could be here,” he said. “I go there every so often and have a meal and enjoy the river and relish in the possibility that we could have something like this in Stoughton.”

Repurposing the building

UW-Madison students used an 80 year old document to ensure their proposal would preserve the design of the building. They used a 1939 purpose plan titled “Plans of Diesel Engine Power Plant for Stoughton, Wis.” as part of their research to help preserve the historic intent.

The student report originally had three options for repurpose: Minimal alteration with only an added patio and deck; an enclosed building addition; and a three-season option with glass sliding doors that open to the patio. The three-season patio option was chosen to pursue based on capacity, year round availability, sustainability, and cost and coordination with the riverfront.

An estimated cost breakdown is $639,500 for exterior work including the deck and three-season patio, and $150,380 for interior creation and repair, finishes, landscaping and mechanical costs.

The highest expense for the exterior cost is repair of the federal tiles – roof tiles commonly used on older buildings but now rare, according to a report by Insite Consulting Architects.

There was also an estimated $45,000 of allowances for unexpected costs that could arise, according to the students’ plan.


A century of shifting sediment and wear and tear on the building has caused structural damage that will require repair. The students discovered a crack in the northeast column of the building, in addition to interior slab cracking from moving sediment.

To fix the problems, a foundation bracket would need to be attached to the northeast column of the building and anchored underground. The building could also be strengthened by using underground foundation structures to stabilize the sediment, buried in the same corner of the building.

Another consideration is the availability of parking in the area, Springman said, as there’s street parking, but the size of the lot could not accommodate a parking lot. He noted, however, that the approved master plan for Mandt Park includes additional parking down the street.

That additional parking is expected to be added in the next five years, based on the Mandt Park master plan.

Contact Mackenzie Krumme at mackenzie.krumme@wcinet.com.