|By Dean Mosiman, The Wisconsin State
JournalMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Septenber 18, 2008 --The venerable Edgewater Hotel in Downtown Madison may be refurbished, expanded and offer more public access, becoming perhaps a "Union Terrace for adults."
Robert Dunn, president of the Hammes Co., a prominent international developer with Wisconsin roots, is buying the art deco-style hotel -- host to notables from Elvis Presley to George Bush Sr. -- with an intent of returning the property to its former glory and more.
"It's a unique piece of property in the market," said Dunn, whose company has handled projects from Lambeau Field to Beijing Olympic National Stadium and is the nation's largest health-care facility developer. "This is an opportunity for it to be something much more than it is today."
Edgewater president and general manager Scott Faulkner will remain with the hotel, which has been operated by his family since it opened in 1948, Dunn said. Faulkner's father, Augie, managed the hotel when it opened and owned it from 1963 until his death in 1996.
"I'm a hotel manager. Bob knows how to improve a property. I think we can accomplish a lot," Scott Faulkner said.
So far, Dunn said he has focused on the business transaction and has not formed a specific redevelopment plan. He is promising to work with neighbors and city officials.
The hotel, which has 107 rooms, and features the upscale Admiralty Dining room and Cove Lounge, the seasonal outdoor Pier Cafe and meeting space, is set in the heart of the Isthmus, in a direct line to the state Capitol and Monona Terrace.
"I would like to expand the number of rooms," Dunn said, adding that the site could support more meeting and convention space. And for the community access, "in a casual way, it would be like the Union Terrace."
The hotel could offer more dining, drinking and entertainment, and add attractions for the winter months, Faulkner said. The hotel once put up Christmas trees and cleared an ice rink for skating on the lake, he said.
"You're at the intersection of the (UW-Madison) campus, the waterfront and Downtown," said Dunn, a Madison native and still a resident here. "There's an opportunity to create a great space for our community. By Madison standards, this will be a large project and very significant investment."
Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said he's upbeat about the purchase.
"We do know we have a shortage of hotel rooms in Madison," he said. "It's been a concern of the convention and visitors bureau for some time. I would welcome an expansion of rooms. This is potentially a very big deal for the Downtown."
Ald. Brenda Konkel, 2nd District, who represents the area, was also encouraged.
"I'm excited by the fact we can find ways for people to have better access to the lake," she said. "I think it will become much more of an amenity for the neighborhood. But the devil is in the details."
Dunn said he will respect the art deco design and the history of the hotel, which has hosted Bob Marley, Ella Fitzgerald, Indira Gandhi, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and many others.
"We've got a lot ideas," he said.
During his 15-year tenure at Hammes, which is based in Milwaukee with offices in Madison and other locations, Dunn has overseen nearly $8 billion in development activities, including Lambeau Field, Kohl Center, Miller Park, Ford Field in Detroit and Los Angeles Colosseum.
Dunn is now leading an effort to bring the NFL back to Los Angeles and managing the development of a new $2 billion stadium for the New York Giants and New York Jets.
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