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The Clarion

DTEC ground lease option goes to board

Alison Ahlgrim, News Editor

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On April 20, Madison College administrators officially recommended that the college enter into a ground lease with Hovde Properties and Drury Southwest for redevelopment of the Downtown Education Center (DTEC). This proposal was selected from the five remaining proposals based on the firms’ experience (30 percent), feasibility of the project (20 percent), and the project’s anticipated revenue stream (50 percent).

The Hovde proposal features converting existing buildings into a 197-room Drury Plaza Hotel, constructing a 10-story office building with first floor retail and grocery, adding underground parking, relocating the Central High School arch to the shared courtyard, and creating multiple rooftop terraces serving the office tower and hotel.

The projected revenue stream for the selected proposal offers the potential of more than $200 million over the term of the 98-year agreement, starting with an initial payment of $750,000. In a press release, Madison College President Jack Daniels said, “It is our responsibility to make decisions that place the needs of our students and communities first. This predictable revenue stream will help support initiatives that align with our mission of addressing the diverse needs of the communities we serve.”

Madison College administrators also tout the “qualitative” metrics that made the Hovde/Drury proposal the clear choice in their minds. Both companies are financially strong and family-owned. They have experience with similar projects in downtown areas including Madison. Finally, their plan considers community members’ preference for adaptive re-use of the building as well as key values described in the City of Madison’s Downtown Plan.

The Board of Trustees held a public meeting on April 24 to allow initial public comment on the selection prior to it going in front of the board at its May 3 meeting. According to The Cap Times, only two members of the public spoke. Both acknowledged the fact that the revenue projections could be very valuable to the college, but also expressed dismay about Madison College vacating the downtown site and not selecting the proposal that would have created a non-profit arts space.

Throughout the process, many downtown stakeholders expressed enthusiasm for the non-profit arts project and the possibility of affordable housing presented in four of the proposals.

To explain why those criteria did not carry extra weight in the process, Vice President of Administrative Services Mark Thomas said, “From a mission perspective, the college does not look to engage in any aspect of what is built on the site other than what has the highest likelihood of a) being a viable business that is able to support the pledged annual payments to the college and b) getting approved by the City of Madison . . . So we are not weighing in on what is built there other than those two criteria.”

The recommendation to begin ground lease negotiations will be considered by the Madison College Board of Trustees on Wednesday, May 3 at 5:30 p.m. at the Truax Campus in room D1630B.

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DTEC ground lease option goes to board