Edgewater Redevelopment: Controversy on the Waterfront An Inside Analysis of the Social, Economic, and Political Effects of the Edgewater Redevelopment
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The Edgewater Hotel in Madison, Wisconsin has troubled the city and its residents since 2008 with regards to its possible redevelopment. The project was met with both praise and remorse, but ultimately has a large impact upon the city as a whole. With the city promising Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to help the developers move forward, many question the proper amount and if they should receive public assistance at all. Though the project promises economic growth for the city by way of new jobs and taxes, those opposed feel that the hotel will become a nuisance and see it as a poor public investment. Interviews with a number of the project?s most important actors shed light on how the redevelopment impacts the city and its citizens. John Nolen, Madison, Wisconsin?s father of urban planning once stated, ?simple recreation in the open air amid beautiful surroundings contributes to physical and moral health, to a saner happier life? (Wisconsin Historical Society, 2011). The general consensus of the citizens in Madison is that the beauty of their lakes should not be interfered with above all else. For some individuals, the proposed redevelopment of the Edgewater Hotel would restrict views of Lake Mendota. Others feel the project would enhance the view, and add access to the water for public and private recreation and entertainment. The three-year debate surrounding the Edgewater Hotel redevelopment sparks interest from all over the city, as its most pressing issues are overwhelmingly controversial in Madison. While some stress funding issues with the publicly funded Tax Increment Financing (TIF), others have expressed concerns with increased noise, lighting, parking, and traffic to the surrounding Mansion Hill neighborhood. Proponents of the project praise its expected increase in property taxes, tourism dollars, and the probability of job creation. We will explore the potential social, economic, and political impacts of the Edgewater Hotel redevelopment project on the surrounding community, and the city of Madison as a whole. The Edgewater Hotel is a majority share, family-owned business dating back to the 1940s. Located at 666 Wisconsin Avenue in the heart of Madison, Wisconsin, the hotel resides only blocks away from the Wisconsin State Capitol building and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It sits on the shore of Lake Mendota, a prime source of entertainment, recreation, and pride for Madisonians. In the 1970s, the hotel expanded, building further east next to the original tower. This housed a dining room, bar, additional hotel rooms, and conference areas. By the standards of today, the 1970s addition is less than aesthetically pleasing and hampers the view of the Lake. The Hammes Company was recently employed to redevelop the hotel by renovating the original tower, replacing the 70s addition with a publicly accessible lakefront terrace, and constructing a new tower with additional hotel space and condominiums. The Hammes Company?s claim for state financial assistance outraged some individuals. To gain a better understanding of the potential impact this would have on the city, we interviewed individuals directly involved in the process.