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Edgewater developer faces mixed response

Paul Snyder
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The Hammes Co. likely will spark one of the most contentious approval processes in Madison this year when the developer submits its application to redevelop the Edgewater Hotel.

“Lines are being drawn,” said Alderman Michael Schumacher. “In Madison, there’s never an end to the public involvement process, and I think there’s a heightened sensitivity about everyone getting a chance to say something.

“Sometimes, that’s a means of stalling anything people don’t like.”

The planned $100 million project has the support of Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, downtown business leaders and some project neighbors in the Mansion Hill area, but Schumacher said there are no guarantees.

Hammes Co. President Bob Dunn got an early indication of that Monday night when he gave a presentation on the project, which would renovate the existing hotel, attach an 11-story addition, and create a public-access walkway and terrace on the shore of Lake Mendota.

Dunn touted the preliminary work his company has done for the last year setting up neighborhood meetings and working with city staff and other prominent Madison neighborhood and business groups to shore up support.

But Peter Ostlind, a member of the downtown neighborhoods group Capitol Neighborhoods Inc., said Dunn is overstating his case that Hammes reached agreement with Capitol Neighborhoods.

“I would say they have begun that process,” Ostlind said. “They have some feedback on what some concerns are, but it hasn’t moved on to a point for neighborhood engagement.”

Furthermore, Ostlind said, if Dunn submits his formal project application in the beginning of August, it will limit the time neighbors have to offer feedback on the plan.

Some area labor union groups are ready to offer their feedback now. Tom Benish, business agent for the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters, said workers need to be backing major projects as early and often as possible.

“The city has a lot of good public work in it through the university, but we need more private-sector jobs,” he said. “If someone is willing to come in and inject that kind of money into a building, I think everyone should support it.”

Dunn has promised more community meetings and public hearings.

But Schumacher said the number of people voicing their opinions about the project could signal a lengthy city debate, no matter how much support Hammes picks up.

“I have not made up my mind yet,” Schumacher said. “But (Monday) I realized that for this thing to be successful, there will have to be real leadership because there’s enough concern and opposition to it already.

“This could be a real crap shoot.”

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