A developer is eyeing more hotel space in lieu of an office tower for the Madison Area Technical College Downtown campus after a partner on the project dropped out.
Drury Southwest, a Missouri-based hotel company, is revising a proposal that called for renovating the college’s Downtown Education Center, 211 N. Carroll St., into a hotel and constructing a 10-story office tower on the eastern half of the property that is currently a parking lot.
Hovde Properties, of Madison, and Drury were selected last year by MATC to enter into a ground lease on the property a block from Capitol Square. But Hovde dropped out of the project late last year as company officials cited concerns with the land lease.
Herb Wedemeier, Drury senior vice president and secretary, said the company still plans to renovate the existing MATC building into 197 hotel rooms.
But in place of the office tower, which was slated to include a grocery store and retail space, Wedemeier said the company is proposing an eight-story building that would bring an additional 118 hotel rooms to the block-size parcel of land. The 315 rooms would make up the Drury Plaza Hotel.
“We think the overall plan is similar in the sense you got the historic renovation and the second tower, but we do think Madison is a great hotel market,” Wedemeier said.
The new building would have two 6,000-square-foot retail spaces, preferably for restaurants, facing Wisconsin Avenue, he said.
Instead of moving the arch from the old Madison Central High School to a roof deck as initially proposed, Drury intends to leave it in the spot where it currently stands along Wisconsin Avenue, Wedemeier said. It would be flanked on either side by the retail space and would form the entrance of an “open breeze way” leading to the hotel’s main doors.
“People will drive down Wisconsin or walk down Wisconsin and be able to look in there and see right into the front door of the hotel,” he said.
The decision was made to incorporate the arch into the design based on the feedback of neighbors and the city, Wedemeier said.
The tower would include an above- and below-ground parking garage with about 240 spots.
Drury was one of 11 developers that sent MATC its qualifications for taking on the redevelopment project. The company wasn’t selected as one of the five finalists, but paired up with Hovde to submit the winning proposal.
Wedemeier declined to provide details on the ground lease with MATC, also known as Madison College. Under the joint proposal, Hovde and Drury were proposing payments starting at $750,000 per year that would rise to $4.5 million annually by the end of the 98-year lease.
Madison College plans to leave the Downtown Education Center in June 2019. To offset the loss of space and better reach a historically under-served part of the city, MATC will open a new campus on Madison’s South Side for the fall 2019 semester.
Mike Stark, special assistant to the vice president of administrative services at MATC, also declined to provide specifics of the lease payments.
He said MATC’s Board of Trustees will be provided with details on the lease and the revised project at its April 4 meeting.
“It’s looking very favorable to the college. It’s going to be, I think, a great asset to the downtown of Madison and actually a good deal for the college,” Stark said.
Ald. Mike Verveer, who represents most of Downtown, said he thinks residents will be pleased with the updated plans as it reduces the height of the new building, maintains the existing building and arch, and would respect the current setbacks of the property.
“I’m quite pleased with the initial direction that Drury is taking approaching this major Downtown development,” Verveer said.
The hotel market in Downtown has seen a boom of developer interest in the past few years, but Wedemeier said Drury sees demand is still strong.
“We’re a hotel developer, builder, operator, and we believe that Madison will be very well served by our first-class hotel rooms,” Wedemeier said.
The Madison College campus is across West Dayton Street from the 373-room Madison Concourse, the city’s largest hotel, and within a block from a boutique hotel that is being proposed for the 100 block of State Street.
Additionally, the 165-room AC Hotel Madison opened at the corner of East Washington Avenue and North Webster Street last April. An Embassy Suites by Hilton, consisting of approximately 250 rooms, will be built on the land that holds the Capitol East parking garage as part of the Judge Doyle Square development.
“Even more rooms can easily be absorbed given the demand Downtown much of the year,” Verveer said about the hotel market.
Wedemeier said the best-case scenario would allow the Drury Plaza Hotel to open in late 2020 or early 2021. Verveer said he hopes to hold a neighborhood meeting on the revised plans sometime in April.