TIF remains in question for new downtown tower project

Project would include apartments, retail, fire department offices
TIF remains in question for new downtown tower project

A downtown Madison tower of shops and apartments for young professionals, planned for construction next spring, still needs two Madison Common Council votes to go forward as the developer has envisioned.

Hovde Properties of Madison has proposed a 14-story tower, which would displace the city’s fire department headquarters but would include space for the city to develop into new fire administrative offices.

The building would be built just south of State Street, in the area bounded by Johnson, Henry, Dayton and Broom streets. It’s currently an underutilized space so close to Madison’s central business district, said Mike Slavish, president of Hovde Properties.

“It’s a parking lot and a series of old buildings, and we really thought it was an opportune time to redevelop that site,” he said. “It should be pretty exciting.”

If construction moves forward, the fire administrative offices would move for nearly two years to space above the Wisconsin Veterans Museum on the Capitol Square, department spokeswoman Lori Wirth said.

The Hovde proposal would include selling the city a “gray box” condominium for contractors to turn into a new fire headquarters, Slavish said.

The blueprints appear headed for city council approval after earning the unanimous support of the city’s Plan Commission.

Less certain is the outcome of a separate vote, likely before the end of the year, on $5.2 million in tax incremental financing Hovde Properties has requested.

“The new development will be a great addition to downtown,” said Mike Verveer, the city alder who represents the area. “I certainly hope that the deal is not contingent on TIF financing.”

Verveer said he would wait to hear whether city staffers believe the financial help is needed before deciding whether to approve the TIF.

Under the plan, the city would make an initial investment and wait for increased property tax revenue to turn a profit in the long run.

Numerous developers in recent years, most notably the backers of the Edgewater Hotel renovation, have asked for city funding.

Just because the city council takes a long look at the TIF doesn’t mean members are anti-development, just budget-conscious, Verveer said.

Downtown tower project could affect MFD

“We’ve been approving (development) projects at a record pace, and I think that’s because of pent-up demand because of the recession,” he said.

Fire Station No. 1, which sits behind the administrative offices, would not move as part of the plan.

But Verveer said it may be renovated during the construction process. Firefighters and equipment would move to a nearby station for months, he said.

“Will the additional response time (to downtown calls) be problematic? I’m certainly not an expert, but the fire staff is, and they’re telling me they’re doing everything they can to make sure response times remain excellent during the construction phase,” Verveer said.