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MATC downtown

Drury Southwest is working with Madison Area Technical College to develop the entirety of the Downtown campus property after its partner pulled out from the project.

A developer previously charged with renovating the existing building on Madison Area Technical College’s Downtown campus is now the likely candidate to take over the entirety of the one-block parcel’s development.

Drury Southwest, a Missouri hotel company, was originally part of a pair to take on redevelopment of the Downtown property. Drury was to renovate the existing building to turn it into a 192-room hotel on a majority of the land, and Hovde Properties of Madison was to construct a multi-story commercial building to fill a smaller section that is currently a parking lot.

MATC chief financial officer Mark Thomas said the project hasn’t drastically changed since Hovde pulled out of negotiations last month and that Drury is moving forward with the ideas put forward by Hovde.

While the concept of parking and a commercial building in that space had already been set, Thomas said, there are still decisions to be made about tenants for the property.

“I think the big outstanding question wasn’t the building itself but what’s in it,” Thomas said.

Drury staff already have an understanding of what is expected for the building on that section of the property, Thomas said, because they had been involved in meetings between college staff and Hovde representatives. They were also involved in meetings with city staff that outlined basic requirements for approval from city boards, including height limitations and street setbacks.

“They’re really stepping into what Hovde was already doing,” Thomas said.

Hovde backed out citing concerns over the land-lease agreement. Hovde president Michael Slavish told the State Journal in November that the company “just didn’t have a confidence level moving forward,” but declined to give details.

Thomas said Drury didn’t seem to have the same qualms with the college’s requirements in the land lease that Hovde did, although he didn’t provide specifics, and he expects the negotiations will move forward quickly. He said he hopes to get an agreement before the board for its January meeting.

Representatives from Drury could not be reached Wednesday night.

The negotiations moving forward will generally conform to the expectations that had been set for Hovde, Thomas said. He also said he doesn’t expect the financial gains for MATC to be drastically different with Drury paying several million dollars in rent over a 98-year land lease.

Drury wasn’t originally a finalist to submit a development proposal earlier this year because the company only had suggestions on redeveloping the existing building, not the entire parcel, Thomas said. With the Hovde partnership on the smaller section of the property, the proposal seemed more feasible. Since Drury will still move forward with the plans initiated by Hovde, the college didn’t restart the proposal process.

MATC plans to fully pull out from its Downtown campus in May 2019, making way for a possible start date for construction that summer. The removal of the college’s presence from Downtown and addition of a new campus on the South Side are part of a years-long effort to reorganize the school and address local education disparities.


Shelley K. Mesch is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal. She earned a degree in journalism from DePaul University.