‘We should be preserved’: Students frustrated with UW’s decision to demolish longtime co-op building

MADISON, Wis. — With walls painted with history, the Zoe Bayliss Co-Op has stood for 67 years as a fixture on UW-Madison’s campus. 

One year from now, those walls will be torn down.

“The community is seeing the importance of Zoe Bayliss and we should be preserved,” former co-op President Angela Maloney told News 3 Now. 

The Levy Hall College of Letters and Science Building will replace Zoe Bayliss in 2023.

The new development will welcome a host of new academic learning spaces for students on campus. In its wake comes the displacement of a space that many students have come to call home.

“We have like 40 to 50 students who live here every year and rely on this community to support them,” added Sara Hartke, who was just elected to Maloney’s previous position.   

In recent months, demands for affordable housing have increased drastically. The co-op offers some of the lowest housing prices in the area.

With an in-house chef, multiple study and entertainment spaces and a welcoming environment for women and non-binary students, many were disappointed when the university offered few options for the continuation of the space.

Maloney said that residents in the building sought to compare the prices of their living with the dorm next door and found that their rent was nearly 48% of the price of the neighboring dorm.

“Our building is just one aspect of our community, we’re so much more than the physical space that we’re in,” Maloney said.

In a statement to News 3 Now, officials from University Housing said: “The removal of Davis Residence Hall and the Zoe Bayliss Co-Op will represent a small loss of beds for student housing… and [they] are looking at long-term plans for growth in university housing to absorb [the] loss.”

READ MORE: Madison City Council approves 10-story downtown development with options for low-income students

The conversation around affordable housing is not new at UW. 

Students in the campus area neighborhood association and student council sounded alarms when new apartment developments threatened the demolition of local businesses and community staples.

“The city, the developers, they won’t always involve students (in) the process automatically. So we have to get involved as much as we can,” said Associated Students of Madison Student Council President Adrian Lampron.

The university recently offered the co-op an opportunity to take over a planned renovated space in Vel Phillips Residence Hall, but the rent would increase significantly.

On April 29, students will host a ‘Save Zoe Bayliss’ fundraiser to raise money for a new off-campus space.

Offering advice to students Madison locals seeking to alleviate the severity of this issue, Lampron said: “Remain vigilant about housing in Madison, because there will always be incentives to build more expensive and newer housing, but we have to be aware and see when those things are happening at the city level.”