A proposal for a boutique hotel near the Capitol has unearthed a potential struggle over parking that may end up determining the character of upper State Street.
That’s because the initial plan for the 110-suite, nine-story hotel, which would be located at 122 and 118 State St., does not include on-site parking. Instead, its developers — Ascendant Holdings of Madison and Milwaukee, Madison-based Central Properties and Portland, Oregon-based Provenance Hotels, which specializes in creating unique hotel spaces — hope to lease up to 60 parking spaces from the State Street Capitol Garage, which has 840 spaces.
But they aren’t the only ones interested in nabbing what are becoming highly coveted spaces. Less than a block away from the proposed site, five developers are proposing redevelopment plans for Madison College’s downtown campus. Four of those proposals include hotels, and all five of them include similar requests to lease parking at the same ramp, said Ald. Mike Verveer, whose downtown district includes both projects.
“There is a lot of demand for that garage currently,” Verveer said. “That’ll only increase...within a few years.”
The Madison College proposals are due March 15. One of the proposals is by a nonprofit consortium, which had recently announced it was backing out of the project. But Verveer said it’s now back in the running after project leaders found a donor willing to provide $5 million in funding.
Verveer presided over a public hearing on the State Street hotel proposal on March 14 that was attended by more than 60 residents and property owners, many of whom raised concerns about parking. They said when the Overture Center, Orpheum and other arts venues downtown hold events simultaneously, parking is scarce. Some fear that a lack of parking could hurt downtown businesses.
Gene Devitt, a resident and landlord who owns a pair of 19th-century mansions by the corner of East Gilman and North Pinckney streets, is worried that the commercial developments will crowd out public interests. “I’m worried there won’t be the parking,” Devitt said. “If we don’t provide enough parking for our public buildings, we will lose them.”
Verveer agrees that some institutions that rely on the public parking could feel the effects of more development. “The garage is fully occupied many times of the year when there are shows simultaneously,” Verveer said. “It’ll be a concern for area business and arts organizations to have so much of the parking committed to a single use.”
However, Eric Nordeen, co-founder and principal owner of Ascendant Holdings, argues that the Provenance Hotel won’t create that much more demand for parking. He estimates that only 20 to 60 guests would require it. And he notes that millennials are driving less, and driverless cars will eventually ease demand for nearby parking.
Nordeen also contends that the hotel, by providing parking revenue during non-peak times, will end up helping the city by filling its coffers.
“[The city is] interested in driving revenue,” Nordeen said. “There is capacity in the decks despite the perspective that there is not. The city is interested in leasing parking around the clock. We can create some of the demand during the times when there is not demand.”
Nordeen said the hotel would be respectful of other downtown venues vying for parking during times of exceptional demand by turning to a valet service that could move cars east of the Square to the Capitol Square North Garage, which has 612 parking spaces.
The hotel is expected to employ 24 to 26 workers, some of whom may park downtown.
The public reaction was more mixed toward the rest of the roughly $30 million project, which includes plans for a ground floor restaurant that would feature a local chef; open air terrace and meeting space; and a rooftop bar and terrace.
Several residents were excited over the possibility of replacing the existing structures with something more aesthetically pleasing, something developers argue will increase pedestrian feel and safety on State, Carroll and Dayton streets.
Plans call for the demolition of the existing 6-story structure at 122 State St., originally a YWCA facility built in 1917. Its ground floor currently houses The Fountain bar and restaurant, while its upper floors are mostly vacant office space. Developers would also demolish the adjacent building at 118 State St., which houses Winedown, a wine bar and event space.
Nordeen said they had originally planned for the development to be a restoration project. However, after inspecting the property closely, they found that previous renovations had stripped the building of its original historical character. So the city advised them to pursue new construction for the project.
Some at the public hearing thought the nine-story structure clad in glass, terracotta and zinc was far too imposing and modern to meld with the area’s historic feel. They urged the developers to mimic the original facade of the current building.
Since the developers are in the early stages of the project, architect Ken Gowland of Metro Studio Architects, one of the firms hired to design the hotel, said they hope to incorporate some of the feedback received at the meeting. They will explore incorporating the ground floor transom line with neighboring buildings on State Street and changing the design of the windows.
The current design will be shown at an informational meeting at the Urban Design Commission March 22. Eventually, it needs approval from that commission as well as the city’s Plan Commission and Common Council. The developers are also seeking approval to exceed the area’s height restrictions.
Developers hope to complete the project by the end of 2018.