Jack Daniels, president of Madison Area Technical College, spoke in glowing terms Monday as he recommended a local developer and Missouri-based hotel company be awarded a contract to redevelop the school’s downtown campus.
From projected return on a proposed ground lease of the property to experience and reputation, Daniels told the MATC Board of Trustees that the Hovde Properties/Drury Southwest partnership was the best choice.
“I believe this partnership gives the college the best opportunity to develop a revenue stream that will provide return for student access and success, program viability, and serving the community across the district,” Daniels said.
He called it “the highest and best use” of the college’s asset.
Daniels’ proposal to vacate the college campus and offer it for redevelopment had been met by fierce opposition from students and instructors, as well as downtown businesses and civic leaders.
The Hovde/Drury proposal was selected from among five finalists last week by an administrative team at MATC, also known as Madison College. The Board of Trustees is scheduled to vote on the proposal on May 3.
Hovde/Drury’s $132 million project would renovate the historic Downtown Education Center at 211 N. Carroll St. for a 197-room hotel and build a 10-story office building with space for a grocery store and other retail outlets on the other half of the block. An underground parking garage with 392 stalls also would be created.
The proposal did not include housing as those offered by other development teams did.
The Hovde/Drury project promised the highest rent to the college district, $750,000 annually in the first five years, and $205 million over the 98-year life of the lease.
The revenue will be in the college’s general fund, to be used for educational purposes.
Hovde proposed to bring $36 million in equity, which Daniels presented as a sign of the company’s commitment to the project.
The developer also has indicated it will seek tax increment financing through the city, as well as historic preservation tax credits.
Daniels also touched on what he called “qualitative” metrics that made the Hovde/Drury proposal the clear choice. The companies are family-owned and strong financially, he said. And their plan was sensitive to community interests in the adaptive reuse of the existing college buildings on the site.
Daniels pointed to the “wealth of experience” Hovde has as one of the few remaining privately held real estate development firms in Madison.
Recent projects to which he pointed include: the high-end apartment building Ovation at 309 W. Johnson St., which made room for a condominium housing the Madison Fire Department’s administrative offices; the former AT&T building at 316 W. Washington, now home to a cluster of tech company offices.
Daniels rattled off a list of restoration projects in which Drury has been involved, including the renovation of a 1931 Cleveland Board of Education Building to a 189-room hotel.
Only two members of the public commented on the project.
Rick Poole congratulated college administrators on a well-thought out redevelopment strategy for the site. He expressed disappointment, however that a proposal to transform the downtown campus into arts work and living space was not selected.
MATC student Steven Ansorge said that the revenue projections “look so amazing.” But he lamented the loss of the college campus.
“It’s unfortunate you have to do this,” Ansorge said. “DTEC is part of so many families’ education.”
“I wish we didn’t have to go with something most students will not be able to access,” he said.
If the proposal is approved by the MATC Board of Trustees on May 3, college administrators will negotiate a ground lease with the developers, bring the plan to the Wisconsin Technical College System for approval and enter it into the city of Madison review process.
Mayor Paul Soglin called the project selection “a wise decision by Madison College,” praising the proposed intensive use of the site, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
Ald. Mike Verveer, who had favored the arts center proposal, has noted that the property is not in an existing TIF district and officials would need to vote to create one.
City officials may have been more enthusiastic about creating one to support the creation of affordable housing, Verveer said.