West Wilson Street parking lot

In June, Dane County approved additional funds to construct a tower next to the Public Safety Building, 115 W. Doty St., in a county-owned parking lot facing West Wilson Street instead of building on top of it.

Plans to renovate the Dane County Jail and consolidate its three facilities into one downtown location are progressing and will begin moving through the city of Madison’s approval process.

On Wednesday, members of Madison’s Urban Design Commission will hear plans for the Dane County Jail renovation project and give their preliminary thoughts for the design firms Potter Lawson and HDR to consider.

Chief Deputy Jeff Hook said the county has been considering characteristics like lighting, carpet and open spaces, knowing that the environment inside the jail can influence those who are housed and work in the jail.

“We don't want something that you walk into and it looks like a cold, hard jail,” Hook said.

Lt. Jeff Heil said he would like to change the jail’s central booking and receiving area to be more in line with what other jails across the state are using. Instead of holding people in cells while they’re waiting, Heil would like to see an open booking concept.

“We allow people that are cooperative to sit in open waiting areas, like you would in an airport or a doctor’s office,” Heil said.

In June, Dane County approved additional funds — totaling $148 million and nearly double the cost of the original plan — to construct a tower next to the Public Safety Building, 115 W. Doty St., in a county-owned parking lot facing West Wilson Street instead of building on top of it.

Dane County had hoped to build on top of the Public Safety Building but learned in October 2018 that the building at 115 W. Doty St. cannot hold additional weight, though it was built in the early 1990s with the expectation that it could.

An investigation revealed that the county has “no viable cause of action against any party for failure of the building design to meet expectations 26 years after completion of construction.”

Hook said building next to the Public Safety Building will decrease the intrusion on jail inmates and staff when construction begins.

“When we were going to build on top of it, we were going to constantly be interrupting the operations of the building,” Hook said.

The presentation on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. in room 153 of the Madison Municipal Building, 215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, is for information purposes only. No action will be taken.

The development team is planning to submit a land use application later this year and make a second information presentation to the commission.

The Urban Design Commission will eventually be tasked with making a recommendation to the Plan Commission with specific findings on the project, including the site layout and access; massing and scale; and exterior design and appearance.

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