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Workforce concerns delay pick of developer to complete Judge Doyle Square

Madison officials this week put off recommending a developer for the construction of a high-rise at the city’s Judge Doyle Square development amid questions over the standards the various companies competing for the job would use in paying and hiring workers.

After city council members expressed a desire to ensure the construction workers employed on Judge Doyle Square were both diverse and fairly compensated, Madison’s Finance Committee decided on Tuesday to postpone until June 10 a vote on which of the three companies now competing for the project should eventually be allowed to take it over. The city has been seeking a new developer for Judge Doyle ever since the previous one gave up its rights to the job in a legal settlement with the city.

The companies now seeking to take on the second phase of the project are: Stone House Development and Gebhardt development, both of Madison, and Mandel Group, of Milwaukee. Plans for this phase call for the construction of a mixed-use development above an almost-completed underground parking garage.

In a memo last week, a special negotiating team said it favored Stone House’s $40 million bid. After saying that each company competing for the project had submitted an “excellent” proposal, it noted that Mandel’s plans would cost $38.2 million and Gebhardt’s $52 million.

“Stone House balances the delivery of workforce housing with the financial return to the city and provides the most straight-forward development process,” according to the memo.

Not everyone, though, was so enthusiastic about Stone House.

Andrew Disch, political director for the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters, said city staff employees, in recommending Stone House, “glossed over” the competing companies’ hiring and compensation plans. He noted that Stone House has announced it would bring on the nonunion company Stevens Construction as general contractor. Mandel Group, in contrast, has said it would select C.D. Smith Construction, a union company.

Disch said C.D. Smith tends to pay the sorts of wages that would allow workers to live in the apartment units they would be building.

That’s among several considerations, he said, that should tip the Judge Doyle contract in Mandel’s favor.

“The statement from Stone House that Stevens will pay construction workers ‘above the minimum wage’ shows a lack of understanding that jobs in the trades should mean a middle-class way of life,” Disch said.

Richard Arneson, a principal at Stone House Development, disagreed, saying there’s no doubt that Stevens Construction will pay workers more than the minimum wage.

Taking up some of these concerns, members of Madison’s Finance committee on Tuesday asked each of the competing developers to explain its plans for employing apprentices on the project, hiring a diverse workforce and paying workers fair wages.

In fact, final hiring goals have yet to be attached to the project, according to the negotiating team’s memo. Even so, each of the competing developers used its project pitch to note how it plans to go about employing a diverse workforce.

Gebhardt, for instance, filed a completed Affirmative Action plan with the city, and Mandel and C.D. Smith said they would work with the city’s Department of Civil Rights to meet hiring targets. Stone House officials, for their part, said they were familiar with the city’s workforce goals and pledged to meet or exceed them.

“This element will need to be further defined in the development agreement negotiation regardless of the team the City selects,” according to the memo.

About Nate Beck

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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