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Update: Madison weighing costly choices on Judge Doyle Square, negotiations to come
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Update: Madison weighing costly choices on Judge Doyle Square, negotiations to come

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Judge Doyle Square - Gebhardt project

Madison's Finance Committee on Monday discussed a strategy to include subsidized apartments in Gebhardt Development's proposed piece of the Judge Doyle Square project Downtown, as well as modifications to the base of the structure to accommodate construction above it.

Gebhardt Development, chosen to take over part of the Judge Doyle Square project Downtown, says the base of the structure nearing completion on the Madison Municipal Building block can’t support the building it hopes to construct without more modifications than initially thought.

Under Gebhardt’s initial plan, the nine-story building would have had an engineered wood frame. But the relatively new construction method isn’t yet recognized in the state building code. A concrete frame building, however, would be too heavy for the base, which consists of a five-level public underground parking garage, first-floor commercial space and two floors of above-ground parking.

Using concrete would also add to the cost and set the project back by up to six months in order to modify the base, the company said. A delay in opening the new public parking garage could mean a delay in demolishing the Government East parking garage, on the second block of the two-block development, and plans by Beitler Real Estate Services of Chicago to build a hotel on that block.

In response, the city is asking Gebhardt to explore steel framing for its portion of the project.

The city’s negotiating team met with members of the city’s Finance Committee Monday to discuss next steps, as well as where to place subsidized, low-cost units in the $50 million structure intended to hold 197 apartments. Gebhardt had originally proposed grouping those units together over three floors as a single condominium, but the city has asked the developer to scatter them throughout the building.

After nearly two hours of discussion in a closed session during Monday’s meeting, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said the finance committee gave the negotiating team “several specific instructions” that will be implemented over the next couple weeks.

Rhodes-Conway said she will not go into more detail about the instructions until the team negotiates with Gebhardt.

Also Monday, the Plan Commission approved Beitler’s roughly 250-room hotel to serve Monona Terrace, one of two glass-sheathed buildings it eventually hopes to construct on the Government East block. Under an amended development agreement, Beitler must begin construction of the hotel no later than 18 months after occupancy of the new underground garage on the Municipal Building block. The City Council must now approve the project, and is expected to take it up at its Sept. 3 meeting.

Initially, Gebhardt anticipated it would cost about $2.1 million to make modifications to the base, known as the podium, behind the Municipal Building if the tower was built with wood framing. Gebhardt had proposed deducting the cost of modifications to the podium from the $7.5 million purchase price for the above-ground elements of the base and the air rights above it.

But using concrete could significantly increase the cost of modifications to the base, city project director George Austin said.

“We know it’s going to be more,” he said. “We don’t have the number.”

The possibility of using steel could hold down the cost and allow more minimal modifications allowing the project to stay on schedule, Austin said, although an analysis must still be completed.

Lee Christensen, Gebhardt’s development manager, said Gebhardt is still evaluating whether steel framing would solve the problem.

“There are solutions to the problem,” Christensen said. “We just need to figure out what the best one is.”

Mike Slavish, a Gebhardt consultant, added that steel is “an option worth considering.”

‘Policy decision’ needed

Gebhardt, selected by the city over two other developers to build on the Municipal Building block after the city parted with Beitler on that portion of the project, had proposed 78 of 197 apartments be restricted to those making no more than 60% of Dane County median income, or $54,240 for a family of three, and placing those units on three floors of the building.

But the Finance Committee asked Gebhardt to spread the subsidized apartments throughout the tower — including top floors with sweeping views — rather than segregate them on three floors.

Gebhardt has offered three new options, which would mean fewer low-cost units or a higher cost to taxpayers.

Under one new option, distributing the originally proposed 78 units throughout the building and still restricting them to those making no more than 60% of county median income would cost the city up to $2.4 million more than planned. Other options would reduce the number of low-cost units but still increase the public cost up to $720,000.

“Now that we have the numbers, we need to make the policy decision,” Austin said.

State Journal reporter Emily Hamer contributed to this report.


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