Hotel Projects, on the map

The WSJ did a story on all of the hotels under construction a few weeks back, I thought it would be helpful to stick those projects, as well as one more I’ve heard rumors about, on a map. Yeah, maybe this post is a few weeks too late, but whatever.

The Sconz (back a few weeks ago) wondered “where is the dialogue” on the other hotels, beyond the Edgewater. As a city, we haven’t yet really had the discussion about “how much hotel is too much”. I think I’m ready to give Mayor Dave some credit here, as he quickly recognized that we need to have this discussion and commissioned a new study to try and give us some numbers to inform the discussion. His capital budget should be forthcoming, and that will give us a better idea of what he’s thinking.

The Edgewater

I don’t want to write much about the Edgewater yet, because I’m going to go to the neighborhood meeting tomorrow and I’m trying to keep an open mind. The one thing I will say right now is this shouldn’t have gone this way. Everyone knows the Edgewater is a dump. When we brought Biddy and the other candidates to campus, we put them up at the Edgewater, and I thought for sure the Chancellor search would fail right then and there. Absolutely everyone in Madison recognizes that the Edgewater needs to do something to update itself, and everyone wants the Edgewater to be updated. We should have been tripping over ourselves to get this project approved and underway, and we need to have a long discussion when this is over as to why it didn’t work out that way. Is it the neighborhood, is it the city planning and development staff, did the developers get bad advice about how to approach the stakeholders? (It could be some or all of those things)

I did try and go to the Landmarks Commission on Monday night, but the room was packed and very hot, and I was going to see it all the next day, so I gave up after about 20 minutes. I expected it to be a short night for me, I knew I couldn’t get there right on time, and LL-110 was a ridiculously  undersized room for the crowd I knew was going to be there. The WSJ gave us the highlights, and Brenda was there with her laptop, so I can read the complete details tomorrow. It’s too bad it wasn’t on the City Channel, or held in a bigger room.

The Fiore Project

The hotel hasn’t been covered as well as the rest of the library saga, in part because Fiore doesn’t really know what they want to do with it. They’re sure that they need a hotel to make the project work, or at least don’t want to try and only get into office space or residential on the site of the old library. What they pitched in July was retail on the ground floor, and a hotel above that. The big reason Fiore wants to include a hotel is because they can use the hotel room taxes as part of their financial figurin’, and with some (actually not-so-fancy) accounting be able to claim with a semi-straight face that library project basically pays for itself.

What they don’t mention  in the powerpoint for the July 2009 Council Presentation on Central Library, and only quietly mentioned in their discussion, was that they’re going to ask for TIF money to build public parking underneath the hotel. I don’t think, or at least don’t remember, if they gave a figure for how much TIF they’re going to ask for.

The Hyatt Place Project

Not much to say about this one, it’s under construction. If we didn’t want it, it’s too late now.

The Apex Project

I want to know more about this project, I was out of town for their neighborhood meeting and so I don’t know much about it beyond what I’ve read in the paper. My understanding is that the final form of the project is still very much up in the air, except that it will certainly contain a hotel. After that, anything seems to go, from grocery store to movie theater. Part of me hopes that this project never happens, because I hope that someday we tear down the Dane County Courthouse and restore the Capitol view from John Nolen. But, if the view is already gone, we may as well hide the courthouse with something a bit more interesting.

They want TIF or other public money to connect the hotel to the Monona Terrace. The interesting question will be if they’ll build the hotel without the connection to the Monona Terrace.

The Kenton Peters Project

I know virtually nothing about this project, only the general area. Kenton Peters is a well-known Madison architect, who designed the blue cube of a Federal Courthouse, and the UW Foundation building out on Old University Avenue. Peters has also built extensively on the shores of Lake Monona already, famously adding on an extra story to one of his condo buildings, paying a $25,000 penalty for considerably more profit. He’s also had some bold plans (see State St, and Doty St, and finally the Monona Shoreline). Kenton seems to propose far more than he actually builds, but he obviously connects with the ball some of the time, so I wouldn’t totally discount him. I’ve heard that it’s supposed to be a hotel project, and in the 400-rooms size (which is a damn big hotel for Madison). I don’t know if it is at all connected to his earlier visions for the Monona shoreline.

The Marcus Hotel

The original hotel proposal, and perhaps the best understood, this would transform the Madison Municipal Building and associated parking lot into a new hotel to serve the Monona Terrace. The Monona Terrace doesn’t have enough hotel rooms. That has been obvious since before the Hilton opened, but it was a nod to the Inn on the Park, the Concourse, and the Edgewater so they would feel like they could also serve the Monona Terrace. In reality, none of them can. Conference organizers want conference centers with lots of hotel rooms attached to the convention center (I can tell you as a conference goer, I actually won’t go to conferences if my room is not attached to the convention center, or it has to be a damn good conference to persuade me otherwise). I think the Marcus is the only hotel that realistically meets this need, though I have another idea that will be a future blog post. I should wait to see more detailed plans, but the Apex hotel seems too far away.

The current Hilton, given its druthers, would just as soon ignore the fact that it’s attached to the convention center, and focus only on business travelers. Enough companies have exclusive or special deals with the Hilton chain that the Hilton could be booked solid if it didn’t have to leave rooms for the Monona Terrace.

There’s also the question of do we really want more convention business at the Monona Terrace? Conventions prefer to have the run of the building while they’re there, excluding the rest of us. A year or two ago, I was taking some visiting grad students on a walking tour of Madison in March, and I had to sweet-talk the Terrace s staff to let us go look out the windows over Lake Monona because of an Amway or Mary Kay convention or some such. There wasn’t actually anyone using the hall at that very moment, but the staff was afraid one of the convention goers would see us and complain. So much for the Community Center it was pitched as.

The story is the Marcus deal is sort of dead. We certainly haven’t heard much from them lately.

So, what do we know about all of the projects? They’re certainly complicated – just look at all of the steps the Edgewater will need to take to be approved. The Fiore and the Marcus projects involve property swaps with the city, which can’t possibly be easy. We still haven’t touched the question of how many rooms does the city need downtown? What are  all of these people coming here to do? The state is the major employer downtown, and its trying to downsize its workforce. Will this mean more people from the rest of the state will need to come to Madison to more often, or does it mean there’s less of a reason to come to Madison? Is there enough diversity in the rest of the downtown employer base to justify all of these hotel rooms? Are there enough downtown condo residents that can keep up a social life of out-of-town visitors that need a place to stay? Can we build Downtown Madison as a tourist destination, or make Downtown Madison the hub for regional tourism?

Finally, what about the existing hotels? The Concourse just had a remodel, and is probably fine. By all accounts, it’s time for Inn on the Park to consider one too.


3 comments so far

  1. Harriet Sesen on

    Since I provide the artwork for hotels, new or renovated, as far as I am concerned, the more the merrier ~ and, more profitable for all of us suffering in this recession.

  2. Brenda Konkel on

    The update from Landmarks will be incorporated into the neighborhood meeting update from tonight . . . interesting back story on the maneuvering between the alders, Edgewater and the neighborhood on what the agenda for tonight would be.

  3. Yung on

    – Hi, I am married to Jessicas coiusn. We came to Jessicas & Ben’s wedding from Milwaukee and had a wonderful time. I love this blog and I think it is an amazing way of capturing someones wedding!!! I wish that my wedding could have been posted on a blog like yours. I would definetly keep this going in the future! Thank you for sharing a wonderful wedding story with beautiful pictures!

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