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Judge Doyle Square

The site of a new public parking structure that is part of the Judge Doyle Square redevelopment project in Madison.  

After cutting ties with its private developing partner on a portion of the Judge Doyle Square project, the city is seeking applications for projects that include apartments for tenants with low- and moderate-income levels.

Madison’s City Council approved a deal with Beitler Real Estate Jan. 8 that transferred the development rights of half of the two-block downtown project to the city in exchange for a $700,000 payment to Beitler. The agreement was a way to settle a dispute over the project.

At the direction of Mayor Paul Soglin, the city created a set of requirements in a request for proposals for the block behind the Madison Municipal Building, otherwise known as Block 88.

The resolution, which will be introduced at the City Council’s meeting Tuesday, authorizes a request for proposals from developers that must include a workforce housing component with some units subject to rent and income restrictions that make them affordable for low- and moderate-income households.  

“Despite the record construction in terms of housing units, we still are facing the challenges that come with all the growth and population,” Soglin said. “We just have to increase, at all market levels, the amount of new housing stock in the city and obviously we want it throughout Madison and that includes the downtown.” 

Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said he has spoken with several local developers who are interested in partnering with the city.

"The downtown has seen relatively few affordable housing projects," Verveer said. "The possibility that many of these units could be designated as affordable workforce housing, to me, is a very laudatory goal and one that the mayor and I have agreed that we want to see happen."  

According to the requirements, the proposals must also be compatible with surrounding buildings, including the historic Municipal Building. The city will also give high priority to projects that maximize the tax base and can be built in a timely manner.  

To that end, a developer could proceed with the apartment project using a plan that has already received zoning approval from the city. This would speed up the process, because separate zoning approvals would not need to be granted. 

Verveer said residential developments tend to be more straightforward and completed more quickly. Working with third-party commercial tenants has proved complicated in the past. The city worked with Exact Sciences in a previous iteration of the project before the company unexpectedly dropped out. 

In addition, the air-rights above the parking must be leased or purchased at a fair market value. Parking in the new public garage will not be made available for the housing project and no tax incremental finance will be available for the project.

As part of the city’s development agreement, Beitler still plans to build apartments and a hotel to serve Monona Terrace. These will be built on the parcel that holds the Government East Garage, or Block 105. Government East will be demolished after the new city-built garage opens in August.

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The apartments outlined in the request for proposal for Block 88 would be built on top of the new parking garage, currently under construction, with ground-level commercial space, above ground parking and a structural slab.

Collectively, the above ground parking, commercial space and slab are called the podium. This part of the project was the subject of a lawsuit filedand later dropped — by Beitler.  

The major downtown development project has experienced its fair share of changes. Soglin said no development moves in a straight line.

“We’re more aware of the the jolts here, but it’s a universal problem, and it’s one that requires leadership that is flexible and prepared to respond to changes whether the changes are brought upon by the public, by the developer or by the City Council and the mayor,” Soglin said. 

Proposals are due in April with potential action by the city over the summer and a development agreement executed in August.

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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.