Gary Brink & Associates, Inc.
A proposal for an AC Hotel by Marriott at 202 E. Washington Ave. in downtown Madison was rejected by the city.
Although a second developer has been unable to satisfy city officials with plans for a downtown hotel at the old Pahl Tire site, Madison officials insist the city is not hostile to development.
"Clearly, we have high standards," says Ald. Ledell Zellers, who represents the district where North Central Group wanted to build a boutique Marriott hotel on the corner of East Washington Avenue and North Webster Street. "I want us to have high standards. I want us to have a good planning process and follow our plans and end up with wonderful developments."
North Central Group had proposed a 10-story AC Hotels by Marriott, in the company's European-style line. But the city's Plan Commission narrowly rejected its plans last week.
Officials from the Middleton-based could not be reached for comment. Zellers and Ald. Scott Resnick, both told Isthmus that North Central officials informed them they're rethinking plans for the site.
"Their intention is to put the project on indefinite hold," Zellers says. "I think that's a good location for a hotel but there were significant issues that remained. I asked myself, were they trying to fit too much into a .33 acre site?"
The company is the second to attempt to develop a hotel on the site; Alexander Company gave up on the project last year.
The project was hamstrung because the lot it was proposed for is very small and on an awkward slope, complicating the construction of underground parking. It's also on a busy intersection on the outer loop around the Capitol Square, creating concerns about parking and traffic safety, as guests load and unload luggage.
The company was also aiming to get approval for two stories above zoning limits, which is capped at eight stories at that site. According to the city's ordinances, the company can build two extra stories if it can show it has an "exceptional design," Zellers says. However, the Urban Design Commission did not find the design to be exceptional.
"There really wasn't a finding made by UDC that there was exceptional design," says Zellers, who sits on the Plan Commission. "That's part of what the Plan Commission struggled with, and we didn't want to get into redesigning things."
Zellers says that given the numerous construction cranes propped around town, it's clear that the city is in the midst of a construction boom and not hostile to development -- a frequent complaint in recent years.
Ken Opin, chairman of the Plan Commission, is disappointed that the project is getting put on hold. "I think there could be a good hotel on that site," he says. "There were a lot of really good things about the proposal, so I hope it's not dead."
However, he agrees with Zellers that the city needs strong designs.
"If applicants are asking us to make concessions on our standards, then we want more exemplary design," Opin says. "Over time, there have been a lot of so-so projects that have come through Plan Commission. Twenty years ago, we were happy for anything that came along. Now it's time for everybody to up their game."