Garver Feed Mill construction update

January 25, 2018 – by Kristie Schilling

A neighborhood on the east side of Madison is about to undergo a transformation through the resurrection of the Garver Feed Mill. The Feed Mill will be transformed into a regional destination that will feature artisans, producers, and retailers offering visitors everything from coffee to gardening, catering to kombucha. The Garver campus will be a next-generation food production center that will provide visitors with the opportunity to experience food production facilities in the modern age. The historic Mill will be transformed into a venue for artisan food businesses to expand and evolve. This development will build upon Madison’s reputation as an epicenter of handcrafted food and drink.

Baum Revision has begun the renovation of the Garver Feed Mill located on the north side of Olbrich Botanical Gardens. The Garver Feed Mill has been a Madison institution since it was built in 1906. The Mill was originally constructed as a sugar beet processing facility by the United States Sugar Company. As the largest factory in the state of Wisconsin, the facility played an essential role in Madison’s economic development and emergence as a major industrial center. Designed by the prominent Madison firm of Law, Law and Potter, the building became known throughout the city as the Sugar Castle due to its gothic arched windows and Richardsonian turret, which gave the building a palatial appearance. The sugar plant remained in operation until it closed its doors in 1924.

In 1929, University of Wisconsin-Madison alumnus, James Russell Garver, purchased the building and surrounding land. Over the next two years, James Garver converted the building into a state-of-the-art feed mill and granary. For the next 66 years, the building operated in that capacity, playing an important role in Madison’s agricultural history. In 1997, feed processing was discontinued, and the Mill was purchased by the City of Madison. For the past 18 years, the structure has stood vacant, waiting to become an essential part of the Madison landscape once more. (excerpts taken from

Today, the renovation is underway and begins with replacing the century old cream city brick with new
brick and tuckpointing. Over the past 20 years of vacancy, the building has been a blank canvas for graffiti and street artists. Touring the building is almost like strolling through an art gallery. I met the project manager, Bryant Moroder, there on a very chilly January morning for a tour. The sound of jackhammers provided the background noise heard in the video. Workers are currently chipping away at the old brick prepping it for replacement with new/old brick recovered from a nearby property built in the same era.

I was thrilled to hear Bryant describe Baum Revision’s commitment to preserving as much history of the building as possible while also making a commitment to sustainability and integrating the arts into the project. He said the graffiti would be documented and potentially be a source of art featured throughout the property. They hope to have the roof filled with solar panels but, at the time of the tour, a recent tariff change had made that opportunity seem a bit less likely with a projected 30% increase in solar production.

The six acres located on the north side of the building will feature 50 ecolodges, often referred to as ‘micro-lodges’ constructed at the local tech college, Madison College. Some are currently built and can be viewed at the campus. The ecolodges will be managed by a hospitality company which had yet to be selected. Visitors can rent the ecolodges for one night or up to a one year period. Baum foresees long term contract workers who prefer a non-traditional stay to a hotel will occupy the ecolodges for the longer periods. The entrance for automobiles will be located off Fair Oaks Avenue to the west of the Garver campus at 133 S. Fair Oaks Avenue. The drive has yet to be constructed.

Garver Feed Mill is located on the north side of the Capital City State Trail, a multi use trail that is heavily traveled by cyclists commuting to work and cycling for recreation. The property will include ample bicycle parking and a B-Cycle station is located right next door at Olbrich Botanical Gardens.

The north side of the Feed Mill will feature a courtyard for outdoor dining, walking trails, a pond and a forest along the Starkweather Creek. The vision of the developers is that visitors will come and spend the day at Olbrich Botanical Gardens and likely end their visit at Garver Feed Mill with tours of the food production facilities, dining at the restaurant, having a cocktail at the bar or attending an event at the event space.

Tenants that have been secured include Ian’s Pizza, NessAlla Kombucha, Sitka Salmon Shares, Calliope Ice Cream, and Underground Catering. Other tenants are currently being sought but the selection will ensure that the right mix of tenants exists. The project is slated to open in spring of 2019. Be sure to like the Monona East Side Business Alliance’s Facebook page for updates.