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Landmarks Commission wants another crack at Edgewater

The Hammes Co.’s latest plans for the Edgewater Hotel redevelopment are scheduled to go before the Urban Design Commission Wednesday and the Plan Commission Monday. (Rendering courtesy of the city of Madison)

The Hammes Co.’s latest plans for the Edgewater Hotel redevelopment are scheduled to go before the Urban Design Commission Wednesday and the Plan Commission Monday. (Rendering courtesy of the city of Madison)

By Paul Snyder

Members of Madison’s Landmarks Commission want to review the latest Edgewater Hotel design and are ready to seek a legal opinion to force the issue.

“I wouldn’t rest a $93 million project on a process unless I was sure all the procedural steps were in line,” said Stu Levitan, a commission member who wants the city attorney’s opinion on the Landmarks Commission’s involvement in the project’s approval process.

The project is scheduled for Urban Design Commission review Wednesday and a Plan Commission review Monday. A final Common Council vote is tentatively scheduled for April 20.

Dan Stephans, chairman of the Landmarks Commission, said project developer Hammes Co., Brookfield, should schedule a meeting with his commission before April 20.

“If what is being proposed is different than what we saw in November,” he said, “then we want a review.”

The Landmarks Commission in November rejected a certificate of appropriateness for the Edgewater redevelopment based on the project’s size and compatibility with nearby buildings in the Mansion Hill Historic District.

Hammes appealed that decision, and the Common Council in December failed to overturn the decision.

Hammes last week submitted to the city revised Edgewater plans, which move the eight-story tower 15 feet to the east, add an approximately 355-space underground parking ramp and expand views of Lake Mendota from Wisconsin Avenue.

Madison City Attorney Michael May said Hammes can avoid the risk of a lawsuit by returning to the Landmarks Commission. If the developer does not go back, he said, any resident neighboring the project could sue, saying the project did not receive appropriate approval.

But, May said, no one has sought a formal legal opinion, so there is no certainty the project must go back to the Landmarks Commission.

“It’s up to what the applicant wants to do,” he said. “We’re waiting for direction from Hammes or the city to look into it.”

Another Landmarks review is not in Hammes’ immediate plans.

“At this point, we have no knowledge that we have to go back,” said Hammes spokeswoman Sarah Carpenter, who added the company plans to make sure the project goes before the appropriate commissions.

There is no guarantee the latest design resolves the issues the Landmarks Commission had with the project in November, said city planner Tim Parks. For instance, he said, the Edgewater must be visually compatible with buildings within a 200-foot radius.

Before the redesign, the Edgewater was not within 200 feet of the nearby National Guardian Life Insurance Group office building, which is considered visually compatible, Parks said.

But the addition of the parking garage and proposed transfer of National Guardian property to Hammes expands the overall Edgewater footprint.

Stephans said if the parking garage is within 200 feet of the NGL building, it should count, even if the garage is underground.

“But there are those who will argue on the commission it’s what you can see,” he said. “It will be a debate if it comes back to the commission.”

But a commission debate is exactly what is needed, Levitan said.

“As far as I can tell, this is a new submittal, a new set of documents,” he said. “I don’t know how it can get certificate of appropriateness approval without our review.”

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