FOX47 NEWS - Restoring a Lakefront Hotel

Jeff Angileri
Jun 29, 2009, 10:32 PM

A Wisconsin developer is planning a massive restoration of the historic Edgewater Hotel on Lake Mendota.

It is a multimillion dollar plan that could have huge economic benefits for the city, but constructing it would violate the neighborhood historic rules.

It is a proposal that could dramatically change Madison's skyline.

The plans are as grand as the picturesque setting -- a $107 million restoration -- 228 rooms, parking, restaurants, a public pier, and greenspace.

We want to make this proposal more than just the hotel, said Amy Supple, development director of Hammes Company. We want it to be a project the city can engage in.

Developers want to restore the 1948 art moderne style of the original hotel, and in doing so, revamp the local economy.

There are more than 900 construction jobs, 500 permanent hotel jobs, tens of millions of tax dollars that can be reinvested in the city, Supple said. So, we think it's a great economic catalyst.

But the hotel plans are serving as a catalyst for controversy.

We'll have restored mansions next to student high-rises, said Fred Mohs, lawyer and real estate investor. People would just give up.

Historic preservation groups say the 11-story addition is in violation of a 50-foot height restriction, in place for more than a generation. No amount of money, they say, is worth the losing the aesthetic nature of the Mansion Hills Historic District.

If you start selling out your historic district based on economic stimulus in the community, you lose it, Mohs said. It has to be sacrosanct. You must be able to keep it through thick and thin, and weather the storm.

And they're worried, the unobstructed views of Lake Mendota, would be lost forever.

The lake ends are very precious, said Gene Devitt, neighborhood resident. Many people are amazed we have those lovely views.

Monday night a steering committee met to gather information about the plan and ask the developers questions. A full neighborhood meeting will take place sometime later.

The proposal still has many hurdles to jump before it becomes reality. The Madison City Landmarks, Urban Design, and Plan Commissions and the full city council need to review it and approve it.

If approved, construction could begin as early as 2010, with a reopening sometime in 2012.

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