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Madison’s Edgewater project scores major victory (UPDATE)

A rendering shows what the Edgewater Hotel could look like if the project is approved for redevelopment. Madison's Common Council is debating the project Tuesday night. (Rendering courtesy of the city of Madison)

A rendering shows what the Edgewater Hotel could look like if the project is approved for redevelopment. Madison's Common Council debated the project Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. (Rendering courtesy of the city of Madison)

By Paul Snyder

The proposed Edgewater Hotel redevelopment Wednesday morning broke through Madison’s legislative barriers with a positive vote from the city’s Common Council.

But the $98 million project on Madison’s Lake Mendota shoreline still needs final approval from a city design commission and likely must satisfy hiring and financing requirements.

Alderman Brian Solomon unsuccessfully tried to make the city’s commitment of $16 million in tax incremental financing for the project contingent on Hammes Co., the Brookfield-based developer, meeting those requirements.

Solomon proposed forcing Hammes to provide project labor agreements, a quarterly report on TIF performance and a guarantee to use laborers from a work force program that helps minorities and veterans get into the trades. The council tabled Solomon’s proposal.

“We’re making a huge statement to every single Madisonian who said, ‘Do not spend my $16 million on this project,'” he said. “This would be a way to prove we’re being good stewards of public money.”

FIND ALL OUR STORIES, PHOTOS AND MORE FROM THE EDGEWATER PROJECT, INCLUDING THE PATH IT’S TAKEN THROUGH MADISON GOVERNMENT, ON OUR NEW PROJECT PROFILE PAGE

Bob Dunn, Hammes president, said he already is working on PLAs and work force inclusion.

“It’s a lot of language that we’ve been working with labor on for more than a year,” he said. “But having to look at this amendment after 12, 13 hours in this meeting and make an agreement on the spot is tough. They’re decisions we have to live with.”

To approve the Edgewater, the Common Council overturned a Landmarks Commission rejection of the project and killed an appeal by Edgewater neighbors claiming the Plan Commission inappropriately approved the project. The council’s approval of the TIF money will allow construction of a nearly 1-acre public plaza on the site connecting Wisconsin Avenue to Lake Mendota.

“It’s easy to say it’s paid off for us,” Dunn said. “But I think this is something that’s going to pay off for the city.”

The finished Edgewater will provide new tax base and revenue for Madison, Dunn said. He said he expects to create 800 jobs through construction of the project, which includes renovating the 1946 hotel and building a new nine-story tower and underground parking ramp. He said he wants construction to begin by year end but is willing to wait until the first quarter of 2011.

The city’s project approval is a benchmark in a review process that has gone on for more than a year and required 28 city committee, council and commission meetings. Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said Wednesday’s vote was a product of the commitment of time and effort by Hammes and the city.

“It definitely makes it worth it,” he said, “mostly because of the jobs this is going to create. I think it sends a message to the construction industry that we’re ready to help out.”

Cieslewicz said he is confident Hammes will continue its commitment to meet city requirements by following through on the PLA and work force recruiting issues Solomon raised.

“Nobody on the council disagreed with the intent of Alder Solomon’s amendment,” Cieslewicz said. “It’s just too complicated to look at, at the last minute.”

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