Despite concerns about moving too fast, Madison’s finance committee on Monday authorized staff to begin exclusive negotiations with JDS Development/Exact Sciences Corp. for the massive Judge Doyle Square project south of Capitol Square.
The Board of Estimates voted unanimously to move ahead with JDS/Exact Sciences despite getting three other proposals on May 1 for the redevelopment of the blocks that encompass the landmark Madison Municipal Building and aging Government East parking garage.
The project will have a major effect “from Blair Street to Regent Street and everything between,” Mayor Paul Soglin said in support of the move.
The four developers — JDS, Beitler Real Estate Services, Doyle Square Development and Vermilion Development — offered projects with a hotel, housing, commercial space, a bicycle center and other amenities and parking. They offer differing designs, features and price tags.
A city negotiating team on Friday said the JDS proposal to bring a massive corporate headquarters for Exact Sciences, a booming Madison biotech company, to Downtown represents an “unprecedented historic opportunity for the city” and should be pursued right away.
“It’s been in city plans for decades to locate a significant employer Downtown,” project director George Austin said Monday.
JDS, composed of the Hammes Co. of Madison and Majestic Realty of Los Angeles, is proposing a $186.4 million to $203.2 million project with a 210- to 250-room hotel, entertainment establishments, terraced gathering areas, public food hall, health and wellness facilities, and 250,000 square feet of office space for Exact Sciences, as well as another 107,000 square feet if the company wants to expand.
The developer is seeking between $55.6 million and $65.5 million for public elements of the project, including replacing all parking in the Government East garage, private parking, and infrastructure for a “civic core” featuring the food hall, exhibition space and media center.
Despite enthusiasm for the JDS proposal, Ald. Mark Clear, 19th District, and others also voiced the need for a proper hotel for Monona Terrace to remain a priority. Hammes president Robert Dunn later said JDS is “keenly interested” in getting the right hotel and will work with the city to do so.
Others said the city must be vigilant in negotiations and protect other priorities like minority hiring. “It’s important for us to keep our heads about this,” said Ald. David Ahrens, 15th District.
Exact Sciences, which has headquarters on the city’s West Side and a new lab in the Novation Campus off Rimrock Road, created the first and only federally approved noninvasive colorectal cancer screening test available in the U.S. and Europe.
In its submission with JDS, Exact Sciences said it needs a preliminary development agreement with the city by June 15 and a final deal by Aug. 1. A compressed timeline is needed to accommodate growth and get all employees under one roof, Exact Sciences chairman and CEO Kevin Conroy said.
The JDS/Exact Sciences proposal would generate $10.1 million in annual fiscal and economic impact for the city, including $3 million in property and room taxes and $2.6 million in increased value of surrounding property and catalytic impact Downtown, the developer’s submission says.
Exact Sciences currently employs about 570 and is expected to grow to 900 by the end of 2016 and 1,400 in following years, company spokesman J.P. Fielder said. Exact Sciences pays an average $88,000 salary for research and development staff and $50,000 for entry-level lab positions, he said.
The Board of Estimates’ directive, spurred by Exact Sciences’ deadline, greatly accelerates the project’s timeline, which called for more than three months of review before the City Council picked a developer to negotiate with in August.
Now, the council on May 19 will be asked to affirm the board’s directive, which requires the negotiating team to report back to the board with a draft preliminary agreement on June 29. At that time, the board could direct the negotiating team to complete a final development agreement by its Aug. 24 meeting, followed by council action.
If a preliminary agreement can’t be reached by June 29, and Exact Sciences can’t extend the deadline, the negotiating team would start a review of the three remaining proposals, the board decided.
As alternatives, Exact Sciences is exploring options in Fitchburg, the town of Madison and University Research Park, Conroy said.