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Home / Commercial Construction / After marathon session, Madison Common Council kills Edgewater plans (UPDATE)

After marathon session, Madison Common Council kills Edgewater plans (UPDATE)

An artist's rendering of the revamped Edgewater Hotel in Madison. The project is being debated Tuesday night by Madison's Common Council.

An artist's rendering of the revamped Edgewater Hotel in Madison. The proposal was voted down by Madison's Common Council early Wednesday morning.

By Paul Snyder

The Hammes Co.’s estimated $93 million redevelopment of the Edgewater Hotel in Madison is dead.

After nearly 11 hours of debate, the 20-member Madison Common Council early Wednesday morning fell two votes shy of the 14 needed to overturn a city Landmarks Commission decision to withhold a certificate of appropriateness for the Brookfield developer’s project.

“Disappointed doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel right now,” said Alderman Mark Clear.

Hammes Co. representatives left the meeting immediately after the final vote without commenting on the decision.

Three council members were absent from Wednesday’s meeting. Clear said a revote could be requested, but it would require interest from Hammes.

“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Clear said. “I would be thrilled if it did but also shocked.”

Fifty-two people registered at the meeting to speak for and against the project. Madison-area labor unions spoke in full support, trumpeting the need for construction jobs and the fact that the unions reached a project-labor agreement with Hammes for the Edgewater job.

PLAs require project owners and contractors negotiate with unions. In exchange, unions agree not to use strikes and lockouts, accepting alternative means to resolve labor disputes and create other forms of labor-management cooperation.

Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, who consistently used the estimated 1,000 construction jobs the project could create as a reason to support the Edgewater job, said he is very disappointed those opportunities are lost.

“This was a project that came along at a time it was badly needed,” he said.

But five council members chose not to reverse the Landmarks Commission’s decision, which was based on a city landmarks ordinance that sets approval guidelines based on a project’s size and compatibility with the surrounding neighborhood.

Alderman Brian Solomon, who voted against overturning the Landmarks Commission decision, said he does not think the council’s vote killed the project.

“Everyone wants to see the project succeed,” he said. “There’s no reason the developer can’t revise the plans. The only thing that kills the project is the developer walking away.”

Hammes President Bob Dunn said during the council meeting he could not find a reasonable alternative to a project that was revised and presented in November.

“Nobody understands the realities of this project better than I do,” he said. “I’ve studied every option I can think of to come up with a feasible alternative, and I worked in a good-faith effort to try to address every single concern brought to me.

“You can only go so far with that.”

Cieslewicz said any move to redesign the project would be “entirely up to the developer,” but, he said, a redesign is unlikely. He said there is no interest from other developers in redeveloping the Edgewater.

“This just shows the problems with the constraints of the ordinance,” Cieslewicz said. “I think the consensus tonight was council members like the development very much, but they never really got a chance to weigh in on the project as policy. They had to go from this ordinance.

“We have some real problems with our system.”

4:21 a.m. Wednesday

A motion by Alderwoman Lauren Cnare to refer a Common Council decision on the Edgewater redevelopment to a later meeting failed on a 9-8 vote early Wednesday morning.

Cnare’s motion would have sent the project to the Urban Design Commission and Plan Commission for review, revision and approval before the Council made its final decision on the project.

But City Attorney Michael May said he worried a revised project that gets other commission’s approval would be different from the project the Landmarks Commission denied. The Common Council would still be required to approve Hammes Co.’s appeal of the decision even if it went through other city commissions.

With that motion failing, the debate now returns to whether the Landmarks Commission’s refusal to grant the Edgewater redevelopment a certificate of appropriateness should be overturned.

Some aldermen, including Mike Verveer, have already indicated they do not feel they have enough information to overturn the decision.

The appeal requires 14 votes to overturn the decision. Three aldermen are absent from the meeting, meaning four ‘no’ votes will kill the project.

11:48 p.m. Tuesday

Madison-area labor groups showed up and testified in support Tuesday night for the Hammes Co.’s redevelopment of the Edgewater Hotel.

Steve Breitlow, business manager for Plumbers Union Local 75, renewed the groups’ call for badly needed private-sector jobs, which the unions last month lobbied for during the city’s budget approval process.

Breitlow also said the unions were able to agree on a project labor agreement with Hammes Co.

PLAs require project owners and contractors negotiate with unions. In exchange, unions agree not to use strikes and lockouts, accepting alternative means to resolve labor disputes and create other forms of labor-management cooperation.

There was some doubt earlier this month as to whether the project would get unions’ support, because Hammes announced it would appeal the Landmarks Commission rejection of the project without first agreeing upon a PLA with the unions.

But in addition to the PLA, Breitlow said Hammes agreed to a partnership to develop a community economic development plan to help foster future cooperation between unions and general contractors.

10:28 p.m. Tuesday

Hammes Co. President Bob Dunn would not explicitly say Tuesday night the Edgewater redevelopment is dead if the Common Council fails to overturn the Landmarks Commission’s rejection of the project. But when Alderman Brian Solomon asked what the company’s next step would be if the decision is not overturned, the answer signaled as much.

“Nobody understands the realities of this project better than I do,” Dunn said. “I’ve studied every option I can think of to come up with a feasible alternative, and I worked in a good-faith effort to try to address every single concern brought to me.

“You can only go so far with that.”

9:05 p.m. Tuesday

The Madison Common Council’s public hearing portion of the Edgewater Hotel development is extending late into the night on Tuesday.

Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said there are 52 registered speakers for the project, meaning if each speaker takes their allotted five minutes, the public hearing will last more than four hours.

Bob Dunn, president of Brookfield-based Hammes Co., spoke first and pointed out that the developer met four out of five criteria established in the city’s landmarks ordinance.

The Landmarks Commission earlier this month denied a certificate of appropriateness for the project, based on the fact it did not meet the ordinance’s standards for size and visual compatibility with the surrounding environment.

Dunn called those standards difficult to determine and said he could measure the project’s volume six different ways that would make it consistent with development in the Mansion Hill Historic District during the last 100 years.

“The great irony in this whole project,” he said, “is that the path to preservation is through redevelopment.”

3 comments

  1. How can this be anything but good for the city of Madison?

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