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Four development groups — including one featuring a prominent Dane County real estate developer and Republican campaign contributor — are in the running to buy and replace the home of the state Department of Transportation, a huge project that would become the largest state-owned office building in Wisconsin.

Terrence Wall, a former Republican U.S. Senate candidate, leads one development group that includes other companies headquartered in Wisconsin. The three other development teams include companies with headquarters in Fond du Lac, Chicago and Minneapolis, with some Wisconsin-based partners.

The state Department of Administration released the names of the developers Tuesday.

They are:

• McCaffery Interests (based in Chicago), Antunovich Associates, Plunkett Raysich Architects, Vandewalle & Associates, Ken Saiki Design, CG Schmidt, W.E. O’Neil Construction Co.

• Mortenson (based in Minneapolis), Wangard, EUA

• C.D. Smith (based in Fond du Lac), Gilbane, HGA, SmithGroup JJR

• T. Wall Enterprises LLC (of Middleton), Potter Lawson Architects, Miron Construction Co.

The DOA said the selection committee would conduct in-person interviews with the short-listed teams the week of Dec. 15.

Two teams did not make the first cut. Those were the Hammes Co. (headquartered in Brookfield), Majestic Realty Co. and KMD Architects, and The Opus Group (headquartered in Minneapolis), Perkins + Will and Continuum Architect + Planners.

The enormous, 600,000-square-foot project at the site of the Hill Farms State Transportation Building on Madison’s West Side could cost taxpayers up to $196 million, according to the request for proposals issued on Oct. 10.

The proposal called for a developer to buy and replace the existing 400,000-square-foot building and then turn it back over to the state. The successful bidder would also buy and be allowed to develop the remainder of the 21-acre site, and purchase the 51,000-square-foot Badger Road State Office Building, which includes 4.35 acres of land near the Beltline at Park Street and Badger Road. That building would be vacated and its tenants moved to the new Hill Farms building in the deal, and the successful bidder would get to redevelop the entire building and site.

Cullen Werwie, a DOA spokesman, said about 40 potential bidders attended a mandatory tour of the property on Oct. 17.

Wall, a prominent Madison-area developer and GOP donor who launched and then dropped a U.S. Senate bid in 2010, is also a contributor to Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Wall contributed $9,975 to Friends of Scott Walker on Oct. 24, about two weeks after the DOA opened its request for proposals on the property. Also on Oct. 24, Eric Lawson, the president and CEO of Potter Lawson, contributed $1,000. And David Voss of Miron Construction gave $2,500 to Walker’s campaign on Oct. 14.

But Wall’s team was not the only one that included contributors to Walker’s campaign. A number of people affiliated with Hammes Co., C.G. Schmidt, Gilbane, HGA, Mortenson, Plunkett Raysica, and Wangard also contributed varying amounts to Friends of Scott Walker.

According to the request for proposals, the successful bidder must:

• Buy the “functionally obsolete” Hill Farms building at 4802 Sheboygan Ave. built 57 years ago, and the remainder of the 21-acre site, which can be used for future development.

• Design and construct a 600,000-square-foot replacement building on the site.

• Provide up to 2,500 spaces of parking.

• Purchase the Badger Road building. The successful bidder would be able to redevelop the entire building and site.

In addition to housing the state Department of Transportation, the new facility would be home to employees from the Department of Employee Trust Funds, Public Service Commission, Office of the Commissioner of Insurance, Department of Financial Institutions, and Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

Scot Ross, executive director of the liberal group One Wisconsin Now, accused the Walker administration of trying to steer state contracts to campaign contributors.

“With Gov. Walker there is one simple rule — those who give, get,” Ross said in a statement. “It seems as though when career politician Scott Walker declared Wisconsin was open for business, he meant he’d be putting the state of Wisconsin up for sale in relentless pursuit for the campaign cash that fuels his ambitions.”

But Werwie said campaign contributions play no role in the process.

He said the criteria used to evaluate the projects include the team, relevant experience and past performance, financial capabilities, concept and design, and implementation strategy, budget and schedule.

“To be clear, campaign donations do not influence in this process in any way,” Werwie said.

Campaign finance records show Jon D. Hammes, founder and managing partner of Brookfield-based Hammes Co., contributed $10,000 to Friends of Scott Walker on Oct. 31. The Walker campaign said Hammes’ wife actually made that contribution and that Hammes contributed about $2,600.

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