Case Study: Multifamily Design During the Pandemic

ramaker insights

Case Study: Multifamily Design During the Pandemic

What’s behind a name? For the TROTTA apartments in Middleton, Wisconsin, it’s the recent history of the place where the 126-unit development was built.

Before the TROTTA, there was the Trotta family. They purchased the land in 1977 and operated The Colonial Motel at 3001 Parmenter St. until 2008. Although the motel is gone, the 2.71-acre property’s story is just beginning. The TROTTA opened its doors to tenants in April 2022.

In 2019, Ramaker was selected by Impact Seven to provide architectural design, civil engineering, environmental due diligence, interior design, structural engineering, and surveying services for the multifamily development.

The multifamily design project aligned with Ramaker’s multidisciplinary expertise. It also presented an opportunity to help Impact Seven address an urgent need in Dane County: building missing middle multifamily housing. The TROTTA makes modern amenities affordable for residents whose income is between 80%–120% of the area median income.

One problem: The pandemic hit just after initial designs were completed, testing the resolve and creativity of the entire project team.

Case Study: Multifamily Design During the Pandemic

Challenge: Responding to pandemic-related disruptions


Navigating virtual planning meetings.

Responding to production bottlenecks and rising costs.

Collaborating with distributed teams.

The project team didn’t predict any of these challenges when the initial designs for the TROTTA were drafted in the first months of 2020. But by March of that year, the TROTTA became an entirely different type of project.

Public hearings went virtual, resulting in long and at times chaotic meetings. Many people quickly transitioned to working from home. Uncertainty prevailed—both for the project and for the team members involved. The pandemic disrupted planning, material prices, and design processes. However, it also revealed new, efficient means of communication and collaboration for distributed teams.

To keep the TROTTA on track and on budget, the project team had to adapt to a variety of pandemic-related challenges on the fly.

Case Study: Multifamily Design During the Pandemic
Case Study: Multifamily Design During the Pandemic

Approach: Leaning on multidisciplinary expertise and an agile project team


Ramaker’s ability to provide a variety of services in-house got the project off the ground.

Although the pandemic had forced Ramaker’s civil engineering, environmental, and surveying teams to work remotely, these service groups worked tirelessly to coordinate soil reports, possible remediation, site grading, and water drainage and retention plans. Their hard work resulted in quick approvals from the city and state.

From there, Ramaker’s architectural design, interior design, and structural engineering teams began collaborating with McShane Construction Company’s crew to prepare for construction. Together, the project team navigated design challenges as well as the challenges of coordinating building plans virtually.

“All of these team members performed their duties with the utmost endurance,” said Danny Krisher, Ramaker’s Lead Architectural Designer on the project. “Everyone was dealing with so many external pressures at the time, not to mention the internal pressures we all felt from being cooped up in our homes.”

After countless video conferences and many late nights, construction began in late 2020.

While materials prices continued to rise, McShane Construction Company maintained a rapid pace, keeping the project on schedule and thus on budget. As a result, overall value engineering efforts were minimal.

“The whole team understood we were grappling with exceptional circumstances to keep this valuable project moving,” said Impact Seven’s Vice President of Real Estate Development Michael Carlson.

“We all worked hard to uplift one another, to roll with the punches, and to preserve reliable, positive communication. Both Ramaker and McShane were exceptional to work with. We couldn’t have asked for a better, more engaged team to help us weather the storm of the pandemic and ensure a successful development.”

Even during a challenging time, the commitment and expertise of the project team kept the TROTTA on track.

Result: Luxury amenities for affordable living


With dramatic eaves, several types of masonry, and various composite siding styles, the design of the TROTTA is unmistakably modern. The building’s amenities include a club room, dog wash, fitness center, fourth-floor common room, three rooftop decks, underground parking, and surface parking with electric vehicle charging stations, as well as immediate access to Middleton’s burgeoning Parmenter Street Corridor.

The multifamily development offers one-, two-, and three-bedroom units with a variety of floorplans. Each unit contains luxury vinyl plank flooring, white cabinets, granite countertops, and stainless steel appliances.

Most importantly, the TROTTA provides much needed missing middle multifamily housing in Dane County.

Case Study: Multifamily Design During the Pandemic

“The TROTTA project began as an effort to provide modern and affordable workforce housing to the Middleton community,” says Joe Gallagher, Ramaker’s Architectural Service Group Leader.

“That effort became increasingly difficult as the pandemic progressed and material prices skyrocketed. The Ramaker team worked closely with McShane and Impact Seven to optimize material ordering and differentiate wants from needs. The overall approach and seamless collaboration led to the successful outcome you see today.”

Designing multifamily housing that creates community


Ramaker is an architecture, engineering, and interior design firm with locations nationwide. Multidiscipline by design, the firm is uniquely positioned to guide multifamily design projects from concept to completion.

Want to learn more about Ramaker’s multifamily experience? Get in touch with the firm’s architectural team.

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