If everything goes as planned, the fate of the Edgewater Hotel redevelopment project will be decided by the end of May. But, of course, when it comes to the Edgewater, hardly anything has gone as planned.
"The way this thing has been handled," says downtown Madison Ald. Mike Verveer, "I'm not as optimistic that all the ducks will be lined up in a row."
For those who've lost track, here's how things stand:
The developer, Hammes Sports and Entertainment, is expected to submit its application for tax incremental financing this week (see next item); this will come before the city's Board of Estimates on May 10. Also that day, the Landmarks Commission will review the project's certificate of appropriateness.
On May 18, the Common Council will have several Edgewater decisions on its agenda: the TIF application, the planned unit development proposal, an amendment to the 1965 ordinance that allowed the Edgewater to expand, and appeals by neighbors against the conditional-use permit granted by the Plan Commission.
There's also the issue of the appeal to the Landmarks Commission's earlier denial of the certificate of appropriateness.
"Whether they'll get through all those items is a question I can't answer," says Brad Murphy, director of the city planning division. "I would speculate that they probably won't get through that in one night."
Verveer says Dean Richards, an attorney for neighbors appealing the conditional-use permit, has raised issues regarding process, which could cause further delays. And Verveer hopes the city will call a special meeting to deal with all things Edgewater "so we're not there until 4 or 5 a.m. making significant decisions. I'm sure there will be hours of testimony."
Missing the mark
Hammes this week missed one important deadline for the now-$90.5 million Edgewater project. Its TIF application was due by noon on Tuesday in order to be introduced at the May 4 Common Council meeting and voted on at the May 10 Board of Estimates meeting.
Joe Gromacki, Madison's TIF coordinator, says the council members can still introduce the application from the floor, which is presumably what will occur. Hammes is expected to ask for $16 million in TIF funds, the same as in its original proposal.
To receive funding, says Gromacki, the applicants "have to demonstrate that but for TIF it wouldn't otherwise happen." That's a tall order, but Gromacki notes that Hammes plans to put about $40 million of its own money on the line.
"The developer has plenty of skin in the game," he says. "Which is a good thing because a lot of times developers try to get in with a lot less."
The 'dean' of Common Council
People talk a lot about Tim Bruer, usually off the record. Some say the veteran Madison alderman, who just stepped down after two straight terms as Common Council president, knows how to get things done. Mayor Dave Cieslewicz has called Bruer the best council president he's worked with.
Others fault Bruer's style and tendency to pontificate. And indeed, Bruer's favorite mode of communication is an endless run-on sentence that keeps changing direction.
Asked what he means when he describes the role of council president as "gatekeeper," Bruer says: "Unless you're able to work well with other members of council, command the respect of department heads and the business community...." That prompts him to give an example: "We worked well with the creation of the south campus of MATC."
From there, he's off on efforts to combat poverty, deal with the school budget crisis and build the tax base. All are plausibly related, at least to each other, but the listener may be hard-pressed to see how it all relates to being able to work well with others.
First elected in 1984, Bruer is the council's longest-serving member and was recently honored with a resolution by his colleagues. He seems to like his new nickname - the "dean" of council - which he keeps repeating.
Bruer is aware of his mixed reputation, saying, "The line is that Bruer is the biggest mortician in Madison because he knows where all the bodies are buried." Does he know where the bodies are buried? "Next question," he smirks.
Some have rapped Bruer for keeping colleagues in the dark on negotiations over the Edgewater and downtown library. Bruer says that, as president, "often your access to information or emerging problems is well in advance of the curve," and it's not always possible to share it with others. But he insists he held more work sessions than any prior president.
Regrets, he has a few: "We did not get to focus on community development, neighborhood support and neighborhood planning." But Bruer, who has no plans to retire and says he'll run again in 2011, is looking forward to going back to being a "free agent," saying, "As you step to the side you have greater latitude and ability to voice your individual perspective."