Local projects are major-change opportunities

Two big parcels of land are on the cusp of...
Local projects are major-change opportunities

Two big parcels of land are on the cusp of large-scale reinvention in Madison. One is the oft-talked-about Judge Doyle Square project, and the other is the Alliant Energy Center campus.

“These are two key pieces of land,” says Deb Archer, president and CEO of the Greater Madison Convention & Visitors Bureau. “A lot of cities wouldn’t have these opportunities so close to their downtown. [It’s a] true change agent and major change opportunity.”

While Exact Sciences dominated the Judge Doyle Square conversations–in November, it scrapped its plan to relocate its headquarters there after the company’s stock dropped when a government panel listed its colon screening test as an alternative rather than a preferred option–the Greater Madison Convention & Visitors Bureau is most interested in the project because of the need for more hotel rooms around Monona Terrace, which could lead to more meeting and convention dollars flowing into Madison.

As of press time, one of the four companies that had submitted proposals back in May 2015 has resubmitted plans to work on the site. Beitler Real Estate’s proposal includes a 610-stall, above-ground parking facility with retail space, a 210-unit apartment building and an InterContinental Hotel Group EVEN Hotel, which would bring 252 hotel rooms downtown.

“The way we look at the Monona Terrace is that it’s like a racehorse that’s penned in,” Archer says. “Its potential is limited because of the number of adjacent hotel rooms and ancillary meeting spaces. It’s a convenience factor. We need to create a more competitive package as well as create more capacity. We’ve been a proponent of the right hotel being built adjacent to Monona Terrace, and the location is really important.”

Convenience, amenities and rooms also factor in to the Alliant Energy Center’s eventual rebirth. The underutilized 164-acre campus in recent years has experienced annual net operating deficits between $300,000 and $500,000, according to a recent strategic feasibility report, which also states that the deficit for 2014 increased to about $758,000. The facility needs updates and additions to be competitive with other exhibition centers around the U.S.

“When you come to a site, whether you’re going to a show or convention, there’s an expectation that you have certain amenities on-site. That the catering meets a certain standard and there are restaurants within walking distance. There’s a very limited ability that you can access amenities for a show [at Alliant],” explains Sharon Corrigan, chair of the Dane County Board.

The strategic feasibility report, released in October, contained three recommendations, the priciest of which at roughly $100 million called for improvements to make over the area such as a new venue to replace or significantly upgrade the Coliseum, upgrades to flexible space and kitchen/catering
facilities as well as private-sector investment for a new hotel, businesses and restaurants on-site.

The two other plans presented would cost less but yield short-term fixes. Corrigan acknowledges that Dane County executive Joe Parisi is focused on the shorter term in order to stop the bleeding on Alliant. “But,” she says, “we can’t just do that or we’re going to be in the same fix five years from now if we don’t look at the larger picture.”

The Strategic Design Committee will meet in the coming weeks to work on recommendations to the county board.

“It’s not just for visitors–this is for residents,” says Archer. “There are so many ways people could benefit like a job or accessing a new facility. [These are] really exciting future dreams.”

New Hotels in and Around Madison

New and renovated hotels are cropping up in Madison and the surrounding areas.

Hampton Inn & Suites Madison Downtown–2013

The Edgewater (renovated from top to bottom)–2014

Holiday Inn Express & Suites Madison Central–2014

The Graduate (rebranded from the Campus Inn)–2015

Grandstay Hotel & Suites Mt. Horeb–2015

Fairfield Inn & Suites Madison-Verona–January 2016

Best Western Premiere Park Hotel (remodeled and rebranded from Best Western Inn on the Park)–spring 2016

AC Hotel Madison–January 2017