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‘Monumental’ Capitol Square project gains City Council approval

‘Monumental’ Capitol Square project gains City Council approval

American Exchange Building rendering (copy)

Urban Land Interests major project would redevelop a largely unused parcel downtown that is bounded by East Washington Avenue, North Webster, East Mifflin and North Pinckney Streets.

Madison’s City Council signed off on an estimated $130 million redevelopment on Capitol Square despite concerns from a neighboring downtown restaurant that it will restrict their panoramic views of the Capitol.

Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, lauded the project’s potential to encourage major Madison employers to stay downtown, expand the employment base and provide a boost to downtown retail.

“This absolutely is a monumental development for the downtown, indeed, for the entire city,” Verveer said.

The project still requires final approval from the Urban Design Commission, which is expected to occur Dec. 2. It received unanimous approval from the Plan Commission Nov. 9.

After a failed motion to refer a decision, the council unanimously granted zoning approval to Urban Land Interests for its massive redevelopment of a largely unused parcel downtown that is bounded by East Washington Avenue and North Webster, East Mifflin and North Pinckney streets.

The proposal is also referred to as the American Exchange development because of the historic building with that name at 1 N. Pinckney St., which will form the cornerstone of the project. ULI’s project will bring 22,000 square feet of first-floor retail space, over 300,000 square feet of office space and 840 underground parking spaces.

It would also preserve the landmark American Exchange building and retain the historic facade facing the Capitol Square.

Eno Vino owners, Jose and Sara Granados, spoke to the importance of their patrons’ access to the restaurant’s balcony that provides a sweeping view of the Capitol. The wine bar and bistro is located on the top two floors of the 10-story AC Hotel Madison Downtown, located 1 N. Webster St. — across the street from the ULI development.

They are not opposed to the development of the block but believe the design can be further adjusted.

“We cannot allow the city of Madison to lose this community asset,” Sara Granados said.

ULI developer Mark Binkowski said previous changes to the project design, including pushing back the upper floors by about 30 feet, draw the eye toward the Capitol Building and mitigate loss of a view.

Verveer said though his “heart goes out” to the owners of Eno Vino, he believes their business will remain strong. With any downtown project, Verveer said the issue of losing sight of views — whether it’s the Capitol or the lake — comes up constantly.

“It goes with the territory downtown,” Verveer said.

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