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Garver Mill proposals under scrutiny

A list of detailed financial and site-related questions will go out to the two developers interested in redeveloping the 102-year-old Garver Mill in Madison after the Garver Mill Re-Use Committee’s meeting Thursday. The committee will await answers and then decide who gets the project.

Daily Reporter Photo/Paul Snyder

The questions that decide who gets to redevelop the Garver Feed Mill in Madison probably won’t be answered by the end of the month, but they’ll at least be asked.
Dan Rolfs, community development project manager for the city, said a list of questions that will go to Cottage Grove-based Barnsdale Land Co. LLC and Madison-based Common Wealth Development will be finalized at Garver Feed Mill Re-Use Committee’s next meeting on Thursday, Jan. 10.
The list, which will include questions relating to in-depth financial and layout issues with the two proposals, is a matter of appeasing some committee members.
“We’ve had public meetings with both developers and private, more formal meetings,” Rolfs said. “There are people on this committee that would like to have had more progress by now, but there are also people who don’t want to do anything until all of their questions have been answered.”
Barnsdale’s and Common Wealth’s proposals were accepted in October. Barnsdale is proposing a mixed-use development, while Common Wealth proposed converting the mill into an arts facility.
The committee decided that a third proposal, from Madison Architect Jan Sweet, was not in accordance with what the city was looking for in a redevelopment project.
Committee member Alderman Larry Palm said trying to select which developer and maintaining talks with the city, developers and the nearby Olbrich Botanical Gardens has been difficult, and that he’s growing impatient.
“I’ve contacted the mayor’s office in hopes of starting some diplomatic discus-sions among the committee, just because I don’t want to be stuck going around in circles forever,” said Palm. “We’re not done, but we’re having trouble moving ahead.
“I’m sure the developers’ anticipation was that we would’ve made a decision by now.”
But Sarah Hole, Common Wealth’s project manager, said she’s not bothered by the lack of a deadline.
“We know the committee is doing its work and that at the next meeting they’ll have the questions ready for us,” she said. “They’ll be able to make their decision from there. We’re not feeling any need to put pressure on them to move the process along.”
Jim Hirsch, the founder of Barnsdale, could not be reached for comment.
Hole said that the 102-year-old mill is the highly preferred site for an arts center, and wouldn’t say whether Common Wealth would pursue one anywhere else if it wasn’t picked to be the developer of the mill.
Both Rolfs and Palm said time is quickly becoming of the essence, though, even if not for the waiting developers.
“The building,” Rolfs said, “isn’t getting in any better shape.”
Palm said he had concerns about the building’s structure, which features roof holes, broken windows and a decaying exterior, withstanding the remaining winter months. Having the city pick up extraneous construction costs, he said, would be a tough sell.
“If something’s not decided soon, the city could be looking at alternate construction options just to stabilize it until the developer we go with comes in,” he said. “That’s something that we shouldn’t have to figure in.”

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