Paranoia Strikes Deep
July 3, 2009 10:28 AM
The Isthmus breathlessly reported today that I have met with a developer. Stop the presses. Start the investigation.
The developer in question is Bob Dunn, who is looking to redevelop the Edgewater Hotel. Dunn's proposal would add rooms. That's good because a recently completed city study says that we need hundreds more hotel rooms in the downtown area. Dunn's proposal would add tens of millions of dollars in value to the city tax rolls. That's good because the deep recession has brought a virtual halt to growth in property values. Dunn's proposal would add public access to Lake Mendota through a roof top terrace not unlike Monona Terrace on Lake Monona and a grand staircase leading down to the water. That's good because the only access through the current public right of way that extends through the Edgewater is either through the building itself or via a scramble to the roof where you can stand next to HVAC equipment. Dunn's proposal would create many good paying jobs in construction and the trades during the two years or so that the construction was underway and then more permanent jobs in the enlarged hotel when it opens. That's good because our unemployment rate is the highest it has been in decades.
So, let's recap. A developer has an idea that will reinvigorate a landmark hotel, add needed rooms to help our tourism and convention industry and bring more resources into the community, add value to bolster city tax rolls, dramatically increase public access to the lake and create lots of jobs. And he had the gall to ask to meet with the mayor to talk about it… several times. Isthmus portrays this as the crime of the century. I guess I was supposed to tell him to take a hike.
The truth is that Isthmus knows about the meetings because they were on my public calendar. What's more, whenever neighborhood leaders saw that I was meeting with Dunn they asked to schedule a meeting with me in response. I obliged every time. For awhile I felt like a tennis ball. Meet with Dunn. Meet with Fred Mohs. Dunn. Mohs. Dunn. Mohs. Back and forth until enough compromises were made and I had enough information to feel comfortable supporting the project.
Now, there's still a long road ahead. Dunn has not even submitted the formal paper work to the city yet. He needs multiple approvals from city committees including the Plan Commission, the Urban Design Commission, the Landmarks Commission, the City Council and me, and there are probably even more. All those meetings will be publicly noticed, of course.
Look, I meet with developers all the time. I meet with neighborhoods all the time. The only thing that distinguishes the Edgewater project is the sheer volume of meetings with both, and that makes sense given the size and potential impact of the project. Talking to people and trying to work things out isn't a crime. It's doing my job.