I'm one of those sentimental types who believes a city's heart lies in its downtown. No matter how attractive its neighborhoods and outlying commercial areas, a city with a half-empty and shoddy-looking downtown is a hard city to love.
Madison's Downtown is a big part of what makes Madison worth loving. It also makes Urban Land Interests' bid for taxpayer help for a major reworking of the AnchorBank property less about revitalization and more about helping a developer out of a jam.
ULI had proposed a smaller project requiring no taxpayer help that would have wrapped the AnchorBank building at West Main and South Hamilton streets in glass, added office space and repaired the parking ramp across
Then the firm had a more in-depth assessment done of the 49-year-old ramp and found that fixing it up would cost more than the firm had anticipated, Binkowski said, or "way over
Suddenly, the project was no longer a financial winner.
Now, ULI is asking for
ULI also wants the city's
No doubt, Downtown parking is expensive to build, and ULI's new, grander plan would be an improvement over what occupies the south end of the
"That part of the Square is totally dead," Binkowski said. "It's a time warp."
But if the proliferation elsewhere in the Downtown of giant cranes, big holes in the ground and workers in hard hats suggests anything, it's that the AnchorBank area wouldn't stay dead forever -- and it wouldn't need much, if any, city help to come to life.
Approved requests for Downtown TIF assistance over the last decade have been less expensive -- in the neighborhood of
"There are several that are not requesting TIF," he said.
The negative response to an early proposal that included a
Nor is the controversial, and ultimately failed, bid in 2010-11 for
Binkowski said his firm's already put a "fair amount of energy, time and money" into the AnchorBank redevelopment, but that without TIF assistance, it won't do anything with the property.
That would be unfortunate for ULI, but it probably wouldn't make Madison any less lovable in the long run.
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