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A $107 million Grand Plan for the Edgewater Hotel in Madison, Wisconsin

The Wisconsin State JournalMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Jul. 11, 2009--It's not just another hotel project. Developer Robert Dunn's dynamic plan to restore and remake the Edgewater Hotel on Lake Mendota offers Madison a vastly improved public asset in a valuable Downtown location. The concept -- featuring a new tower of rooms, a public rooftop terrace and grand staircase offering public access to the lake -- deserves strong support from city officials and the residents. The lengthy city approval process is just beginning. More details will emerge in coming weeks, including the developer's request for a public subsidy in the form of tax incremental financing. Close scrutiny should be given to the amount of TIF money the Edgewater project deserves for public amenities such as parking and the rooftop terrace. City officials must be fiscally responsible. But considering the public benefits offered by the plan, the city and the developer ought to work hard to make the project happen. Coming during a recession, the $107 million proposal is a bright spot for the local economy. The huge investment in Downtown will boost jobs, business and civic pride. A small contingent of critics suggests the Edgewater redevelopment plan has been shrouded in secrecy. Fearing change, they claim the project could harm the surrounding neighborhood. But in fact the developer has reached out to stakeholders, holding many meetings with residents and groups. Dunn and his development company also have significantly adjusted the project based on feedback. They have moved and narrowed the planned tower of hotel rooms to preserve the scenic view of Lake Mendota from Wisconsin Avenue. They have moved a portion of the hotel back from the water, added condos for permanent residents and addressed noise and traffic concerns. The hotel has a colorful past, filled with celebrity stays and local lore. Those who know, and have been a part of, the Edgewater's past will celebrate the return of the Rigadoon Room bar down by the water. The big hotel on the lake needs big plans for the future. That's precisely what the developer has offered Madison, having completed other high-profile and successful projects, including the Lambeau Field renovation in Green Bay. The mayor, key City Council members and university officials are supportive. So are business groups and most neighbors. Madison should do what it can responsibly do to help Dunn break ground by next year for a 2012 opening.


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