Height seems to be the sticking point for the remaining critics of a proposed $43 million boutique hotel near the top of State Street in Downtown Madison.
But here’s a stubborn fact the detractors gloss over: The stylish development would actually be shorter along State Street than the ugly office tower that now dominates the site. The old YWCA building at 122 State St. is six stories and about 70 feet tall now. That would come down, with the entrance to the hotel on State standing just four stories tall, similar to another building on the corner.
So the facade along Madison’s premier street for shopping and nightlife would be two stories shorter, with much more appeal and activity.
A group of developers submitted a rezoning request to turn four properties on the 100 block of State Street into a boutique hotel.
Both the city’s Landmarks and Urban Design commissions have favored the project, which would include a restaurant and 130 guest rooms, operated by Portland, Oregon-based Provenance Hotels, which specializes in creating one-of-a-kind, high-end lodging properties.
Where the hotel would be taller is at the intersection of North Carroll and West Dayton streets, which is off State Street on a corner that definitely needs improvement. The developer of the project, Ascendant Holdings of Madison, plans to erect eight stories there, with a ninth-floor bar and lounge that would be open to the public with dramatic views.
Nine stories is taller than a Downtown city plan generally allows in the area. Yet the ninth floor would be set back and hidden from pedestrians on the street below. Moreover, the parapet of the eighth story would stand 95 feet high, which is just 7 feet higher than what’s normally allowed.
The city has granted modest exceptions to the height rule for other projects, including another Downtown hotel and apartment building near the Capitol Square, according to the developers. It should do so for this project, too, given the significant benefit the hotel offers the city, its residents and visitors. Keep in mind that the very top of the hotel, at 107 feet, would still be several stories shorter than the nearby Concourse Hotel, and far below the state’s height limit that protects views of the Capitol.
Ascendant has gathered and responded to lots of input from neighborhood residents and city officials. The developers have changed construction materials and how the existing facades of State Street buildings are integrated into the hotel. They have already lowered their original plans for the building by 11 feet.
The proposal preserves the rhythm and feel of individual storefronts along State Street. Parts of the facades of the storefronts at 118 and 126 State St. are incorporated into the hotel’s design. An added plus will be the removal of an unnecessary and ugly pedestrian bridge above Dayton Street.
Ascendant is not seeking a public subsidy for its plans. The property and room taxes it generates would benefit city taxpayers. Just as important, Provenance’s concept of an independent, boutique hotel seems a perfect fit for Madison and State Street.
Madison’s Plan Commission next week and the City Council later this month should approve this dynamic proposal that would invigorate State Street’s future while respecting its past.