Judge Doyle Square - JDS Development

This rendering shows JDS Development's proposal for Judge Doyle Square, which includes a massive corporate headquarters for Madison biotech Exact Sciences Corp.

The Madison City Council gave city negotiators the go-ahead last week to start exclusive negotiations with JDS Development and Exact Sciences Corp. for a major downtown development.

The city received four proposals in early May for the Judge Doyle Square project, which aims to put a hotel and parking project on the two downtown blocks encompassing the Government East parking ramp and the Madison Municipal Building.

The proposals came from JDS Development, Urban Land Interests and North Central Group, Beitler Real Estate Services and Vermilion Enterprises, but the inclusion of growing biotech company Exact Sciences as the anchor tenant in the JDS proposal bumped it to the front of the line.

“This is an unrealized dream for the city,” Mayor Paul Soglin said.

He lamented the loss of healthcare software company Epic Systems to Verona, saying they can’t let that happen again.

“Why did we let it go? Because it was too much of a headache in the opinion of some people to take on the challenge of serving a private investment of that magnitude,” Soglin said. “It was better to ignore it, and we’ve seen the consequences.”

A week after receiving the proposals, the city’s negotiating team recommended starting immediate negotiations with JDS, a joint venture of Majestic Realty Co. and Hammes Co. The team also urged a sped-up timeline to accommodate Exact Sciences Corp.’s stated need to have a site for its headquarters determined by June 2015.

“It’s a matter of putting somebody at the head of line,” said project manager George Austin, saying the decision to start negotiations with JDS wouldn’t eliminate any of the other project proposals yet.

District 15 Ald. David Ahrens proposed a substitute amendment at the meeting that would extend negotiations to all parties that submitted proposals, arguing that negotiating with one developer is to the detriment of the city.

“It’s fairly well established that negotiating with multiple parties puts a buyer into a more advantageous position than if negotiating singly,” Ahrens said.

The council rejected that motion 16-2, with two abstaining.

The adopted timeline speeds up the city’s previously scheduled process to execute a preliminary agreement by June 29 and a final agreement by Aug. 24.

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