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Garver Feed Mill

Madison's City Council approved an additional $1.6 million, primarily for the environmental remediation and site restoration costs, in addition to an already-budgeted $1.82 million grant to assist in financing the Garver Feed Mill redevelopment. 

Developers tasked with rehabilitating Garver Feed Mill, the east side’s deteriorating landmark, are possibly two months away from starting work on the site following the City Council’s approval of a development agreement and environmental remediation funding.

The Council approved an additional $1.6 million primarily for the environmental remediation and site restoration costs in addition to an already-budgeted $1.82 million grant to assist in financing the redevelopment. Baum Development’s $19.8 million project would convert the former working feed mill into an artisan food production facility with up to 50 micro-lodging units on the surrounding five acres.

Under the development plan, Olbrich Botanical Gardens is also receiving a new cold storage facility.

Dan Rolfs, city community development project manager, said the developer must wrap up financing and land use approvals by Sept. 30 before the project can close.

“Once we close, whenever that is, (the developer) can begin work in earnest,” Rolfs said. “From my interactions with them, they would like to begin work … as soon as possible.”

The city was aware that the site was contaminated, but Rolfs said the total remediation costs did not become known until the amount of soil that needed to be removed was calculated. Several alders including Denise DeMarb, District 16, and David Ahrens, District 15, said the lack of budgeting for known environmental costs was disappointing.

“That doesn’t make any sense to me why we are spending $1.6 million dollars to clean up this area for someone to put in hotel rooms,” Ahrens said, referencing the micro-lodges.

Ahrens voted against the additional funding and development agreement.

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Ald. Marsha Rummel, District 6, urged the Council to support the often-delayed project. As she summarized at a Finance Committee meeting July 24, the result of rehabilitating the site will be a “gorgeous historic building” that represents Madison’s legacy of “industrial heritage” with a food production use that hearkens back to the historic building’s original use as a sugar beet processing facility.

Cleaning up the soil is the cost of preserving the site, Rummel said.

“We have owned this land for 20 years and have know it has these issues for 20 years,” Rummel said. “We’re still going to have to clean the soil. This is part of what it takes to reuse a facility and give it a use for another 100 years.”

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Abigail Becker joined The Capital Times in 2016, where she primarily covers city and county government. She previously worked for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the Wisconsin State Journal.