Fred Mohs admits he was stunned when the Edgewater Hotel redevelopment project rose from the dead this week. Developer Bob Dunn announced he has found private money to make up for the loss of city financing.
"It's not a happy situation," says Mohs, an attorney, developer and preservationist who lives across the street from the hotel and has been fighting the project. "I didn't anticipate this. I don't think anybody did."
The $98 million project - which would renovate the original hotel, remove part of the 1970s addition and construct a nine-story tower and a public plaza - has taken many twists and turns since being proposed in 2008. The Landmarks Commission rejected the project, only to be overruled by the Common Council in an unprecedented move. Dunn then survived a brutal council fight to secure $16 million in TIF funding in 2010, only to have a new mayor slash it to $3.3 million last year.
That seemed to finally kill the project, but Dunn roared back this week with the announcement that he'd convinced private investors - including Jerome Frautschi and Pleasant Rowland, benefactors of the Overture Center - to make up for the loss in city financing. He says he plans to break ground this fall and won't use any city funding.
Dunn also fought off a lawsuit by Mohs, who has led a group of neighbors in opposing the project. They say it clashes with the character of the Mansion Hill Historic District.
Mohs isn't ready to throw in the towel. Though it's too early to say what actions he could take, he's looking at all possibilities.
"I don't know what, if any, options our group has," Mohs says. "So it's premature to speculate. We will think about anything useful we could do, and if there is something, we'll do it."
Ald. Mike Verveer, who opposed the project, says the city won't try to block it.
"I don't see any possibility of that happening," he says. "Even if there was some avenue to throw roadblocks in the construction, I don't think there's any will in city hall to do that."
Online commentators have speculated that, without the use of TIF funding, the city lost the project's public access aspects. That isn't the case, says assistant city attorney Anne Zellhoefer.
The public access portion of the project was completely separate from the TIF financing, Zellhoefer says, and is still intact.