Eno Vino could lose skyline view of Capitol if $130 million, 9-story development project gets approved

MADISON, Wis. — For co-owner of Eno Vino Sara Granados, the skyline view of the Capitol building was part of the reason she decided to locate her restaurant on the 10th floor of the AC Marriot Hotel downtown.

“It’s part of the memories that people are making here,” she said. “This is the only publicly accessible rooftop access to a bird’s eye view of the Capitol.”

But the view that is exclusive to Eno Vino could be blocked by a $130 million dollar development project.

Mark Binkowski, a shareholder with with the Urban Land Interests development group working on the project, said this is a project they’ve been trying to complete for 25 years.

“We finally have enough pieces to advance the new development which we are calling the American Exchange Development,” Binkowski said.

Binkowski said the project involves building a six-level underground parking garage, and eight floors of office space built on top of a level of retail stores. Binkowski said the project would maintain the exterior of the historic American Exchange Bank building.

“Our goal is to continue creating space that we can attract new companies to come to downtown Madison and locate on the square,” Binkowski said.

Granados said she doesn’t have an issue with the project itself and what it could do for downtown’s economy, but she wants to see the building be a couple stories shorter.

“Part of the reason our building was approved to be as tall as it was was the public access component of these top two floors,” Granados said. “So we take it seriously the responsibility to preserve that.”

Binkowski  said, “The economics of creating a large underground parking ramp, we lose money on every single parking garage we’ve built and we will lose money on this parking ramp as well. Unless we can maximize the density above it, the project is not financially feasible.”

The City’s Urban Design Commission will need to approve the first steps of this project on Oct 7. Colin Punt, a planner with the Department of Planning and Economic Development, said Eno Vino’s concerns will be considered in their meeting.

“The commission will be looking at the views. Most of that consideration are from views further away such as up and down East Washington. But the commission will be looking at all of those,” Punt said.

Both Granados and Binkowski said they’ve met on several occasions to come to a compromise and that several revisions have already been made. However both said it’s still a work in progress.

“There is a bit more compromise that could be done,” Granados said.

“We understand there are sometimes repercussions of that and not everyone is going to be happy with that,” Binkowski said. “But we hope that as a whole people see the development as a net positive for downtown.”

The Urban Design Commission will meet to discuss the project on October 7. The plans will then move forward to the Planning Commission October 19 and will get final approval by Common Council on October 20.