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Landmarks Commission Blocks $93 million Edgewater Project in Madison, Wisconsin

By Nick Heynen, The Wisconsin State JournalMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Dec. 1, 2009--Plans for the redevelopment of Madison's historic Edgewater hotel were dealt a major blow late Monday night after the Landmarks Commission blocked what developer Hammes Co. president Robert Dunn had called his company's best and last proposal.

The sticking point in the commission revolved around a stipulation in the historic preservation ordinance for the neighborhood that requires new construction be "visually compatible" with the surrounding buildings and environment.

At about 164,000 square feet and $93 million, the project would dwarf even the nearby National Guardian Life Insurance building.

Hammes Co. now has at least three options: appeal the commission's decision to the City Council, which could overturn the ruling with a two-thirds majority; redesign the proposal again to meet the commission's standards; or cut their losses and abandon the project.

Representatives of Hammes Co. would not comment following the commission's decision.

The City Council has been largely supportive of the proposal and approved $16 million in public assistance for the project in the 2010 capital budget passed in November.

The proposal's fate is now questionable at best, said council president Tim Bruer, who is not on the commission but has followed the project closely from the start. "Barring a miracle," he said, this plan for The Edgewater is facing one outcome: "Game over."

Almost all of the dozens of speakers at the meeting were against the proposal, many decrying it as not in keeping with the historic nature of the Mansion Hill neighborhood, mainly because of the project's size.

"You won't let us change our doors or even our shingle colors, and now you're considering this building?" said Gene Devett, a speaker who lives near The Edgewater.

Dunn said he'd asked the project's supporters not to register at the meeting but not to speak. There were roughly equal numbers of registrants for and against the proposal.

"People will always say, 'Oh, that's a big building,' " said Ald. Bridget Maniaci, 2nd District, who a member of the Landmarks Commission who voted for the proposal and was one of its strongest backers on the commission. "You have to acknowledge that this is a commercial site. This is a hotel."

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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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