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Madison, Wisconsin Mayor Dave Cieslewicz Marvels at City's Bevy of Hotels Projects;
All Represent a Big Opportunity for Madison

The Wisconsin State JournalMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Jul. 22, 2009--Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz marveled this week at his city's "embarrassment of riches with hotel projects."

What would really be embarrassing, though, is if nothing is built.

Amid the worst recession in a generation, private developers want to invest hundreds of millions of dollars Downtown. Some of the plans also would include public perks, such as a scenic terrace over Lake Mendota and a wharf on Lake Monona.

Two of the projects are competing to connect to Monona Terrace with a skywalk. The convention center needs additional hotel rooms nearby to draw bigger events and more visitors, which would benefit the entire region.

Many details are still forthcoming from the developers, and the public gets to have its say. The city shouldn't give the developers whatever they want.

Yet the city needs to be flexible -- as do the developers -- to try to move as many of these exciting projects forward as possible.

They include:

--Apex Enterprises' $100 million proposal for a 14-story building and 300-room hotel with meeting space, restaurants, a grocery store and public wharf on Lake Monona. The project could link to Monona Terrace with a skywalk.

--Hammes Co.'s $107 million pitch to remake the Edgewater Hotel on Lake Mendota with a new tower of rooms, a public rooftop terrace and grand staircase to the lake.

--Marcus Corp.'s 275-room hotel plan to serve Monona Terrace with a connecting skywalk. The project would include a new tower and restoration of the landmark Madison Municipal Building with ballrooms and meeting space.

--Fiore Co.'s hope for an upscale, 250-room hotel with retail space on the city's current library site across the street from the Overture Center. The project is predicated on Madison building a new public library on the same block.

In addition, a 151-room Hyatt Place Hotel is already on track to open next year along West Washington Avenue as part of the Alexander Co.'s Capitol West development.

Not all of these proposals may fit or fly Downtown. But having a wealth of projects to consider in this economy -- especially two that could connect with Monona Terrace -- is a privilege that should not be squandered.


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