Hill Farms state office building

Three Republican lawmakers are objecting to the state's $197 million plan to replace the Hill Farms office building.

Three Republican lawmakers are questioning the state’s decision to move ahead with a $197 million redevelopment of the Hill Farms state office building on Madison’s West Side.

In an open letter to Gov. Scott Walker’s administration, Reps. Joe Sanfelippo, R-West Allis, David Craig, R-Town of Vernon, and Rob Hutton, R-Brookfield, highlighted a $750 million tax increase proposed by Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb, whose department is headquartered at the Hill Farms building. The proposal is meant to address a looming shortfall in the transportation fund, estimated at $680 million in the 2015-17 biennium.

“In light of these facts, we question the wisdom of proceeding with this (Gov. Jim) Doyle-era idea in committing $200 million of scarce resources into an office building that will be of little benefit to the citizens who will be paying for it,” the lawmakers wrote.

Department of Administration spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis said, “We are in the middle of a procurement for a project enumerated by the Legislature in the previous capital budget.”

The project calls for replacing the 400,000-square-foot half-century-old building with a 600,000-square-foot building that would house offices for six other state agencies. To help cover the cost, the state plans to sell the building and surrounding 21 acres to a developer, as well as additional property near the Beltline.

The State Building Commission approved the project in March 2013. At the time state officials estimated the building would need $34 million in upgrades over the next few years.

There has been talk of replacing the building for more than a decade. In 2004, a Doyle Administration real estate consultant estimated it would cost $45 million to renovate the building, but only $32 million to raze and build a new facility.

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Matthew DeFour covers state government and politics for the Wisconsin State Journal.