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Judge Doyle Square

Council members voted 18-0 on Tuesday to take on additional construction and ownership responsibilities on the $186 million private-public development Downtown. Above, construction is already underway on a 560-stall public underground parking garage.

The Madison City Council approved Tuesday an additional $11 million in public funds for the massive Judge Doyle Square development after rising construction costs and other issues had created complications for the public-private endeavor.

Despite several members lamenting the situation, the council voted unanimously to authorize $11 million to take on extra construction and ownership responsibilities from Beitler Real Estate Services in the $186 million project a block away from the State Capitol.

"I do feel quite cornered with this option and don't feel like we've been left with much choice here," said Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff.

Alds. David Ahrens and Larry Palm were absent Tuesday.

Beitler informed the city in April that, due to rising construction costs, it would not be able to pursue the private portion above an underground 560-stall public parking garage already under construction on the block that holds the Madison Municipal Building.

The Chicago-based developer asked the city to consider funding first-floor retail space, two floors of private parking and a structural slab -- collectively known as "the podium" -- that would then be able to support further development. The $11 million is set to go toward constructing those components.

Beitler still hopes to construct nine floors of apartments above the podium.

"We don't believe this is a set up, if you will, that (Beitler) is trying to get the city to do something that they wouldn't otherwise do," City project manager George Austin said. "They really are beyond what they can afford."

The $11 million is set to be split between $4.4 million from Parking Utility reserves and $6.6 million in unspent funds from the $46 million originally budgeted for the underground garage. The city's commitment to the project is now $50.4 million.

The Parking Utility would be paid back with interest in roughly 12 years, said city finance director Dave Schmiedicke.

The whole project is slated to bring apartments, retail and office space, a 252-room hotel, bicycle center and more than 1,000 parking spots to the blocks that hold the Madison Municipal Building and the Government East parking garage.

In its decision to provide the funds, the council also encouraged the city project team to try to remove a clause in a development agreement that gives Beitler exclusive rights for a certain time to build on the land when the parties meet to renegotiate their agreement.

"What we need to do here tonight is give the negotiating team clear direction what we feel is in the best interest of the city," said Ald. Rebecca Kemble.

Two other cheaper options to cover the underground garage were under consideration, but would have limited the development potential above.

Street reconstruction veto sustained

In other action, the City Council upheld Mayor Paul Soglin's veto of the reconfiguration of an East Side street that he argued would limit too much parking in the popular Atwood neighborhood.

Members voted 10-8 in favor of overturning Soglin's veto of a redesign for part of Winnebago Street that adds in extra space for bicyclists and allows for trees on both sides of the road but would take away about 24 on-street parking spots.

But the council failed to get the 14 votes needed to override a veto.

Earlier this month, the council voted 11-6 in favor of a design option that includes two, 10-foot car lanes, two bicycle lanes with 2-foot buffers for each lane and parking on one side.

The other option includes parking on both sides but limits ornamental trees to one side of the road. The affected area, an approximately three-block stretch between Bashford Avenue and South Second Street, can already be tight for parking.

Alds. Ledell Zellers, Bidar-Sielaff, Denise DeMarb, Sara Eskrich, Amanda Hall, Arvina Martin, Matt Phair, Samba Baldeh, Zach Wood, Bidar-Sielaff and Kemble voted to override the veto. The remaining eight council members present voted to uphold the veto.

City staff will now have to work on a new street configuration for City Council consideration.


Logan Wroge has been a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal since 2015.