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The old Garver Feed Mill building could turn into an event center, upscale apartments and townhouses, senior living or an artisan food production facility.

Built in 1905, the historic landmark once housed the U.S. Sugar Beet Company and later became the Wisconsin Sales and Storage Company. For years, Madison has been looking for a developer to rehabilitate and renovate the aging building and the surrounding acres adjacent to Olbrich Botanical Gardens on the city's near east side.

Madison has now received four responses to its second Request for Proposals sent out in October. All of the proposals are starkly different from one another.

The Alexander Company is proposing to renovate the old mill into an event center that could host everything from art installations and weddings to mustache competitions or beer festivals.

The design would divide the 50,000-square-foot space into seven different event areas along with storage, support space, a commercial kitchen and an outdoor kitchen garden. The plans also incorporate a new “Grand Lobby” to add a meet-and-greet space, taking shape as a glass box set off from the rest of the building.

The project would total about $20.5 million with completion by November 2016 and full operations by February 2017. The event center operator would be VenuWorks and Food Fight would provide the food and beverages.

Ogden & Company, Inc., meanwhile, is proposing to turn the space into a range of living units, including studio lofts, apartments and walk-up townhouses. It would put a total of 42 units in the existing building and add new buildings on the grounds with 42 apartments and 12 townhouses.

Based on market rates, the rent for a studio apartment would likely fall in the $800-$900 range with one-bedroom apartments likely exceeding $1,000. The area would have on emphasis on public art and edible landscaping, possibly including community gardens, a fitness center, an outdoor theater and a coffeehouse.

The total project cost is $39.3 million, with projected completion by July of 2015.

Alternative Continuum of Care, LLC, is also proposing housing but focuses instead on the older adult population. The developer would offer a wide range of personal services, including care, activities and nutritional services.

The development would include 148 age-restricted living units, some in the existing Garver building and the majority in new construction. The service levels would range from independent living to assisted living and memory care, offering older adults the ability to transition from one to another if necessary.

The project would also include a large community event space, rain gardens and vegetated roofs. It would total $39.8 million, with completion by May 2017.

Baum Development would instead like to restore Garver Feed Mill’s core function as an artisan food production facility, creating a destination for people interested in artisan food production, urban agriculture and the native landscape.

The renovated building would provide space for food producers, such as bakers, brewers, distillers and cheese makers as well as grounds spaces for an orchard, vineyard, hops and community gardens. The site would incorporate an event and meeting venue, a small café, a weekly farmers market and a 50-unit micro-home showcase that guests could stay in, learning about energy-efficient lodging and enjoying a “unique Madison overnight experience.”

The whole concept aims to provide educational benefits in urban agriculture, outdoor conservation and sustainable technologies. It would cost $19.8 million and would be finished in November 2016.

The city has budgeted $1.825 million for the project and is looking for a financially strong developer to renovate the site and maintain the historic nature of the building. It is also requesting 14,000 square feet of storage space for the city’s parks department and Olbrich Botanical Gardens, which all but one of the developers outlined. Ogden & Company said it will work with the city and Olbrich to further develop that piece.

The Garver Feed Mill Committee will next meet Jan. 7 at 6 p.m. to discuss the proposals, which can be viewed in their entirety.


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