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Edgewater project clings to life

By Paul Snyder

He has called his thus-far rejected proposal for the redevelopment of Madison’s Edgewater Hotel his company’s “last, best offer,” and now Bob Dunn has a last, best chance to salvage the project.

Tuesday, the Common Council gave Dunn’s company, Brookfield-based Hammes Co., a reprieve by not voting on the project. The council could have rejected the project, but instead is letting Dunn place his proposal in front of the city’s Urban Design Commission and Plan Commission.

After the two commissions review the proposal, the council will reconsider it at a Feb. 23 meeting.

The city’s Landmarks Commission denied a certificate of appropriateness for the project Nov. 30 based on concerns that the project was too big for the surrounding area.

Alderwoman Marsha Rummel, a member of the Urban Design Commission, said she recently spoke with Hammes representatives and is optimistic the city can find a compromise with the developer.

Dunn said at Tuesday’s Common Council he liked his chances with the other city commissions.

Dunn did not return repeated calls to discuss how much of the project he is willing to alter.

But Rummel said that, in recent discussions, Dunn and Hammes Development Director Amy Supple said the company was unwilling to significantly reduce the building’s size.

“There are still a lot of big questions about the project, and I think there are some things that will change,” Rummel said. “And the sense I get is that they’re willing to look at other ideas.”

Those ideas include redesigning the exterior to match the expanded portion of the hotel to its 1940s section, moving the expansion farther from the Lake Mendota shoreline, changing the size and scope of the public patio space, or buying more land around the hotel increase the project area.

“I hope the project is different when it comes back to the council,” said Alderwoman Lauren Cnare, who is a member of the city’s Plan Commission.

“There are a ton of variables out there with this project, and it’s fraught with stumbling blocks along the way.

“A lot of projects go through this in Madison.”

For the moment, the Common Council is expected to review all of those stumbling blocks — including the city’s expected commitment of $16 million in tax incremental financing — at its meeting next month.

“I think we set the February date like that just in case the discussion needed to go further,” Rummel said. “There’s a lot to talk about, and we wanted to at least get it started next month as opposed to possibly having the debate in March and pushing it out even further.”

All that talk needs to result in some modifications, Cnare said, because the Common Council likely cannot approve the project as is. She said she, the developer and other council members want to see the project happen, but its fate is sealed if Hammes doesn’t work with city planners.

“I’d call that a dead project,” Cnare said.

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