Earlier this summer, Madison officials sifted through six development proposals for the old Don Miller car dealership site on East Washington, land the city bought last year.
A committee is recommending two of them, and a third is still under discussion. That doesn't mean, however, that the other three proposals are necessarily dead. The recommended proposals still have to be approved by the Common Council, which may opt for a different proposal. And some of the projects rejected for the Miller site could end up at other locations.
City officials were excited about a proposal for Ale Asylum to move to the site and open a showcase restaurant/brewpub alongside its brewery. Ale Asylum later decided the site didn't work for its business.
Co-owner Otto Dilba says the property isn't big enough. He says the brewery wants a location that will allow it to expand regularly, up to 125,000 to 150,000 square feet.
"We don't want to have multiple locations. We want one location that will allow us to continually expand," Dilba says. "I don't think there's any place like that downtown. That's really the driving force why we didn't go downtown. While it was appealing to be in that area, we were going to be landlocked."
Ale Asylum plans to slowly broaden its distribution network, going statewide and then to large regional cities. "We have no desire to start flinging our beer around the country."
Dilba says the company is close to announcing a new home, but he wouldn't say whether it would be in or out of Madison. Ald. Marsha Rummel remains hopeful: "I don't know what's best for their business, Ijust think it would be great for the near east side."
A proposal for the Lafollette (PDF), a hotel, hostel and restaurant, also reaped praise from city officials. Ald. Satya Rhodes-Conway says she loved that the company planned to train workers. But, she says, it seemed bad timing for a hotel: "It seems like you need more activity before you're going to put a hotel on East Washington."
But developer Sanford DeWitt says that project is far from dead. He's had discussions about partnering with other developers on the Don Miller site or going somewhere else. "I'm a free agent," he says. "I'll work with anybody as long as it's architecturally similar."