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Madison’s St. John’s Lutheran Church is tearing its building down to build community

A new $46.5 million affordable housing project in downtown Madison is scheduled for completion in late 2025.


St. John’s Lutheran Church, in downtown Madison, will include 108 affordable housing units. | Rendering via Potter Lawson

Potter Lawson

Census data released late last year put into stark relief Madison’s income disparities. 10.8% of all Dane County residents lived in poverty. The median income for Black households was $39,800. For those households who reported to have Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origins, it was $53,800. White households had a median income of $82,300.

These statistics have not sat well with St. John’s Lutheran Church leadership. The church, established in 1856 and located downtown at the corner of East Washington Avenue and Hancock Street, recently announced that it will demolish its current building to expand its ministry.

It’ll do so by building a 10-story redevelopment with a new sanctuary, offices, community spaces, and 130 mostly low-income apartments, with a parking structure below.


St. John’s Lutheran Church has been on the corner of East Washington Avenue and Hancock Street since just after the Civil War. | Rendering via Potter Lawson

A closer look:

Total cost:
$46.5 million. The church’s More for Madison fundraising campaign has been created to raise the final $3 million for the project.

Begins in the summer of 2024 with a completion date targeted for late 2025.

108 of the 130 apartments will meet Dane County standards for affordability. Rents, depending on income level, will range from $568 a month for a studio apartment, to $2,285 for a two-bedroom market-rate unit.


Affordable housing units will be available for renters who earn less than 60% of the Dane County median income. | Renderings via Potter Lawson

Apartments will be available for renters who earn less than 60% of the Dane County median income ($55,680 for a family of three).

Low-income units will be financed with support from tax credits awarded by the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority and affordable housing funds from Madison and Dane County.

The church’s goal is to offer housing to those increasingly priced out of the downtown housing market, like those that work in restaurant, retail, and service industries.


  • Church sanctuary
  • Offices
  • Rooftop garden
  • Community rooms

A third of the first floor will be set aside for partner agencies including wellness and social service organizations. The church hopes that the facility will be used by neighbors and local nonprofits as a gathering place.

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