Public weighs in on Judge Doyle Square project - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Public weighs in on Judge Doyle Square project

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The public has some mixed opinions about a major development project in downtown Madison.

The proposed Judge Doyle Square strives to revitalize the block near Monona Terrace and bring more business downtown. The project would restore and update the historic-- but aging-- Madison Municipal Building (MMB) and improve parking in the area.

A committee overseeing the development process held a public hearing Monday night. The group will soon choose between two development proposals for the project. 

Committee member and downtown resident Adam Plotkin says both plans incorporate a hotel, retail and residential space and parking improvements; but the key difference is one plan turns the MMB into a hotel and the other revamps it, but keeps the building full of city offices.

Plotkin says he appreciates hearing what the public thinks about the plans and how they'll be funded.

"I think the other biggest consideration will be the use of tax incremental finance dollars to support the project and the overall level of public support in general," says Plotkin. "Both of them require public investment of some sort."

Business owners, hotel managers, tourism officials and the general public all showed up at the hearing to voice their concerns and support.

Tourism groups like the Greater Madison Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB) want more hotel space to boost revenue for the Monona Terrace. Many believe the facility is missing out on money-making conferences because of a lack of hotel rooms in the immediate area.

"This conversation about Judge Doyle Square project will finally address this critical element which is needed to maximize the city's investment in Monona Terrace," says Deb Archer with GMCVB.

Mary Carbine, with Madison's Central Downtown Business Improvement District says the project will bring more people to businesses downtown.

"This project will enable private investment in a prime location in the downtown, and will contribute to enhancing downtown as a destination," says Carbine.

Hotel managers like Steven Zanoni with the Concourse are more wary of a big hotel development.

"I think for us to say that if we just build this hotel they will come is a very difficult question," says Zanoni. "GMVCB is already under funded when you look at these other competitive destinations and for us to have a successful hotel we need to look at additional funding for Monona Terrace."

Area restaurant owners also spoke to express concerns over parking shortages during the building phases and how the entire project could adversely affect local businesses.

The Judge Doyle Square project could cost between $160-200 million, depending the final proposal chosen. The committee will meet a few more times to deliberate before making a final decision.

Their recommendation will go to the city council for further review. The ambitious timeline strives to break ground sometime in 2014.

Click here for more information on the project, proposals and schedule for upcoming meetings.
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