Amid continuing city requests for revisions, a developer has put on “indefinite hold” its proposal to build a 10-story hotel near Capitol Square and next to a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home.
The North Central Group’s architect, in a one-sentence memo on Tuesday, asked the city to remove the project from all upcoming city agendas. North Central Group officials could not be reached Wednesday, and it was unclear if the developer was intending major changes or dropping the project.
Last week, the city Plan Commission narrowly failed to approve the developer’s proposal for a 164-room hotel at the corner of East Washington Avenue and North Webster Street.
The commission, concerned about a sidewalk easement, the building’s height, shadows it would cast and its impact on traffic, referred the proposal to an Oct. 27 meeting to allow for revisions and more review by the city’s Urban Design Commission.
The delay came as the city mulls a hotel and city investment for it on the other side of Capitol Square as part of the massive Judge Doyle Square project. JDS Development and city staff are currently exploring options to downsize and reduce the public cost of that project on blocks now hosting the landmark Madison Municipal building and aging Government East parking garage.
Two City Council members confirmed North Central Group is backing off its proposal.
“There was frustration with the Plan Commission and the entire process for the project,” said Ald. Scott Resnick, 8th District, a Plan Commission member who voted for the redevelopment last week and spoke with North Central Group’s attorney this week.
“They’re trying to figure out what to do next,” he said.
Ald. Ledell Zellers, whose 2nd District includes the site and who also is on the Plan Commission, called North Central Group “a good developer” but said it was trying to accomplish a lot on a tiny lot. “It’s a very busy corner,” she said. “There are legitimate concerns.”
Despite the commission’s demands, Resnick said he believes there was a path forward for the developer to win project approval.
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At last week’s meeting, a motion to approve the project failed, 5-4, with Chairman Ken Opin breaking the tie. The commission spent nearly four hours on the proposal for the former Pahl Tire Co. site, which would carry Marriott’s AC Hotels brand, described by the hotelier as “design-led, urban, cosmopolitan and tailor-made for modern travelers.”
The proposal includes 38 valet parking spaces, a green roof and a rooftop restaurant and lounge that would have views of the Capitol and lakes.
Plans hit a snag over traffic concerns and a requested 3-foot easement along Webster to allow a wider sidewalk. The plans already grant that easement on East Washington, but a 20-foot portion of the building’s facade would be built to the sidewalk edge on Webster Street.
Other concerns were raised about the building’s height and its relation to the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home. Earlier this year, the city adopted a report on the block filled with recommendations on how to allow development around the Wright-designed Robert M. Lamp House at 22 N. Butler St. The report mandates a shadow study for any development over four stories.
Zoning for the site allows for eight and six stories on parts of the site but the city can award additional floors for “exemplary design” and meeting other standards.
A shadow study completed by the city Planning Division determined sunlight to the Lamp House rooftop garden would be affected by the hotel between 10 a.m. and noon, but not afterward. It also showed sunlight would not be obstructed to the entire rooftop at any time throughout the day.
Commissioner Michael Heifetz, who has long criticized the city’s decision to allow for a separate planning effort for the block, disparaged the Lamp House report.
Other commissioners expressed uncertainty about whether the proposal’s architecture met the city’s exemplary standard for additional stories.
The project had initial approval from the Urban Design Commission but needed approval from the Plan Commission and City Council, and final approval from the UDC.
Zellers said the Isthmus is booming with development, and she’s confident North Central Group or another developer will offer a proposal that satisfies concerns at the Pahl Tire site.