Doyle Square proposals bring opportunities, challenges

Wisconsin State Journal
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Developers vying to join the city in a massive redevelopment near Capitol Square offer striking resumes and building concepts, but the city must decide if the proposals meet minimum requirements for the project.

The teams — Hammes Co./Majestic Realty Co.; the Journeyman Group/Gialamas Co./Marcus Hotels and Resorts/LZ Ventures; Mortenson Development; and North Central Group — have done major, if not iconic, projects locally and across the nation.

“I’m encouraged there were four responses,” said George Austin, whom the city hired to oversee Judge Doyle Square after he had a similar role in the development of Monona Terrace, Overture Center and Wisconsin Institutes of Discovery. “That provides us with good competition, and it demonstrates the project concept has market viability.”

Ald. Mike Verveer, 4th District, who represents the site and sits on the city’s special Judge Doyle Square Committee, said it was inappropriate to comment on specifics before the review began but noted that some teams were bringing “significant financial resources.”

Edward P. Roski Jr., Majestic’s president and CEO, for example, is worth $3.7 billion, ranked No. 104 in Forbes Magazine’s list of the richest Americans and is part owner of the Los Angeles Lakers and Kings.

“The caliber is very high,” Downtown Madison Inc. President Susan Schmitz said of the development teams. “There’s a lot of experience especially with hotels, mixed-use and parking.”

The proposals also mark the return of Robert Dunn, the Hammes Co. president who engaged in one of the most painstaking and polarizing debates in recent city history to bring to reality the $98 million Edgewater hotel redevelopment now under way on the shore of Lake Mendota.

Said Verveer, who opposed Dunn’s Edgewater plan: “I certainly have no hard feelings. I do give Dunn and his company a lot of credit. It’s obvious he’s very eager to do development projects in Madison.”

Schmitz, who backed the Edgewater project, said time has passed and she doesn’t expect officials to be biased for or against Dunn.

The city invited developers to show qualifications, offer preliminary project concepts and demonstrate financial capabilities for the redevelopment of two blocks that now include the Madison Municipal Building and Government East parking garage.

The city said project concepts must include a hotel that could guarantee a 250-room block for Monona Terrace, first-story retail and restaurant storefronts along Wilson, Doty and Pinckney streets, a bicycle center and parking for both blocks. The city also invited developers to offer more.

Now, the city will determine if proposals, which vary dramatically in detail, are complete and comply with the request.

North Central Group would build two hotels — a Courtyard by Marriott and Residence Inn with up to 325 total rooms and other features all on the Government East block, leaving the city to find another developer for the Municipal Building block.

Mortenson did not name a development team, and its proposal described a 300-room hotel and parking but few other specifics.

The Hammes/Majestic proposal features the landmark Municipal Building as part of a 250-room destination hotel even though the city preferred concepts didn’t use the structure. The team would also develop a 150- to 200-room boutique hotel on the Government East block. Hammes/Majestic also offered an alternative that would not use the Municipal Building.

It was unclear if the city would consider Hammes/Majestic’s main proposal using the Municipal Building, the alternative or both.

The proposal from Journeyman and its partners is anchored by a 352-room Marriott hotel or a 219-room Marriott and 133-room Hilton Garden Inn.

The development teams declined comment or did not return phone messages.

City staff will review the proposals and make a recommendation on their completeness to the Judge Doyle Square Committee, which meets May 9. The committee will determine which proposals comply or if guidelines should be waived, and who should be invited for an interview.

“There are some important questions for us to decide,” Verveer said.

The committee will later recommend to the City Council which developers should be invited to submit more detailed proposals.

None of the proposals so far offer the 400 to 500 hotel rooms to support Monona Terrace and the visitor and convention industry recommended in a study earlier this year by C.H. Johnson Consulting of Chicago.

But all proposals seem to meet the city’s requirement of guaranteeing a block of 250 rooms.

 

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