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Apex Enterprises Proposes a $100 million Mixed Use Project to Include 300-room
 Hotel on Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin


By Dean Mosiman, The Wisconsin State JournalMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Jul. 21, 2009--After a year of fine-tuning, a developer has new plans for a $100 million mixed-use project on Lake Monona with a hotel that could directly serve Monona Terrace.

Apex Enterprises, one of the city's largest owners and managers of rental property, is proposing a 14-story, 450,000-square-foot building with a 300-room full-service hotel, fitness center and pool, meeting space, up to 60 housing units, two restaurants, a 10,000-square-foot grocery store and 550 mostly underground parking spaces.

The project, less than 500 feet from Monona Terrace and across the street from the Dane County Courthouse, could be linked to the convention center with a pedestrian skywalk and have a commuter rail stop, public skywalk to Lake Monona and a public wharf, Apex officials said.

"It would be something unique to Madison," Apex chairman Bruce Bosben said of the mix of uses. "It's been done in other cities. It hasn't been done here yet. And it would do a great job of meeting the convention center's need for hotel space."

The project would replace two apartment buildings, three homes carved into apartments and offices and a parking lot, and would transform a low-profile, worn segment of the skyline.

But the proposal is generating concern about historic preservation, a loss of affordable housing, height and massing, traffic, and keeping view corridors to the Capitol.

"We're interested in learning more about it," said Pete Ostlind, chairman of the Bassett District of Capitol Neighborhoods Inc. "It's far too early to know where the neighborhood may or may not come out on it."

Ald. Mike Verveer, 4th District, who represents the core Downtown, said, "I'm open minded about it. But I'm not a cheerleader for the project by any means at this point. The jury is absolutely still out."

The project would be energy efficient and environmentally sound and transform a site producing $91,000 annually in property taxes to one generating nearly $2 million a year, said Apex president Steve Yoder.

"I'm very pleased there's so much interest in investing in our community," said Mayor Dave Cieslewicz. "We sort of have an embarrassment of riches with hotel proposals."

The proposal comes as city negotiations with the Marcus Corp. for a hotel to serve Monona Terrace have bogged down.

In April, Marcus proposed a 275-room hotel with retail space and parking that would incorporate the landmark Madison Municipal Building. The building would use a pedestrian skywalk to connect to Marcus' existing, 236-room Hilton Madison at 9 E. Wilson St., which opened in 2001. The city has been awaiting a financing proposal from Marcus for months.

Negotiations with Marcus are "a matter of growing frustration for me," Cieslewicz said.

David Merritt, Marcus Hotels and Resorts senior vice president for development, could not be reached.

The Greater Madison Visitor and Convention Bureau and Monona Terrace say the convention center needs at least 400 more hotel rooms nearby -- a number recommended by a consultant -- if the convention center is to meet its potential.

"Obviously, 300 hotel rooms within 1,200 feet of Monona Terrace is something we would desire," center director Jim Hess said of the Apex proposal. Hess declined to endorse the proposal before getting more details.

"At a minimum, it's good for the city to have two options," Bosben said, adding that Apex will proceed whether Marcus does or not.

The proposed redevelopment of the Edgewater Hotel on Lake Mendota that would add 121 rooms, and a Hyatt hotel rising on the 300 block of West Washington Avenue that's adding 151 rooms aren't within the 1,200 feet considered necessary to directly serve the convention center.

But Cieslewicz now wants a staff report on all hotel rooms being built or proposed Downtown. "We have to be cautious about how one project relates to another," he said.

Apex, which owns $100 million in local property and manages other holdings worth $300 million more, approached neighborhood and city leaders with a similar use in the spring of 2008. But Apex couldn't secure two properties and revised plans.

The new proposal has a different design and reorients the building to face the lake, Yoder said.

Apex wants neighborhood input and is committed to an acceptable solution for a historic building at 151 W. Wilson St., he said. "We are totally open to suggestions," he said.

Apex would seek tax incremental financing (TIF) support for a pedestrian connection to Monona Terrace, extra parking sought by the city, and a public bridge to the lake and wharf, Yoder said.

Ideally, Apex would get needed approvals and begin construction in the spring of 2011, with completion two years later, Bosben said.

"Instead of the site being part of the rump of the city, it could be one of the gems," he said.

If you go

What: Apex Group will make an informational presentation on a proposed $100 million redevelopment near the Lake Monona waterfront at a neighborhood meeting sponsored by the Bassett District of Capitol Neighborhoods Inc.

When: 7 p.m., Aug. 5.

Where: Capitol Lakes Retirement Community, 333 W. Main St.

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To see more of The Wisconsin State Journal, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.wisconsinstatejournal.com.

Copyright (c) 2009, The Wisconsin State Journal

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