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Private Development Proposals Being Sought for Alliant Energy Center Campus
February 16, 2016

Seeking to steer the planning process away from an estimated $117 million public investment, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi is soliciting development proposals for parts of the Alliant Energy Center campus.

Parisi, a steadfast opponent of spending public money to replace the Dane County Coliseum, issued a request for development proposals Monday for four chunks of land, totaling about 6.7 acres, on the periphery of the Alliant Energy Center campus.

Discussions among county officials over how to keep the Alliant Energy Center self-sustaining, without support from taxes to cover operating expenses, have intensified in recent months. The emergence of Parisi’s request for proposals comes just three days before the County Board is set to consider a resolution that would authorize a new master planning process for the campus.

Parisi sent a memo to County Board supervisors Monday accompanying the release of the request for proposals. In the memo, he said he believes his request for proposals will better inform ongoing planning efforts for the Alliant Energy Center and could generate new revenues for the campus through land leases to developers.

“I can support proceeding with master planning that’s informed by the market and tangible local development proposals, not a process that leads to the county borrowing and spending $120 million,” Parisi wrote.

Parisi has sharply criticized the master plan resolution supervisors have moved through committees over the last month.

On Jan. 21, the ad-hoc Alliant Energy Center Strategic Design Study Committee unanimously created a resolution that recommended the county pursue a new master plan based on the third of three options presented in a Hammes Co. report, which called for razing the aging Coliseum and redeveloping the grounds around it into a $500 million public-private partnership. Under the concept, the site would become a destination for expos and other large events and would include a retail, dining and hotel district.

Hammes Co. estimated such a project would cost $455 million to $507 million with an estimated $117 million in public money going to support about $80 million for a new multipurpose arena with 6,000 to 8,000 seats, $25 million for a 1,000-stall parking ramp and $10 million for improvements to Exhibition Hall.

The other two options were significantly cheaper – focusing primarily on improvements to existing buildings – but were considered by Hammes Co. to have little or no potential to improve the long-term finances of the facility.

Last week, Parisi sent a letter to members of the county’s Executive Committee opposing the resolution, calling it a “myriad of solutions in search of a problem.”

Instead, he has favored a variety of lower cost improvements to the 49-year-old Coliseum that get at some of the facility’s most immediate shortfalls. Those include a curtaining system to make the venue feel more intimate for smaller events, as well as new loading docks to address one of the biggest complaints identified in a consultant report from last June. The Markin Consulting report determined an insufficient loading area and an inadequate rigging grid for heavy concert equipment were major contributors for tours that have passed on producing concerts at the Coliseum in recent years.

Despite Parisi’s opposition to a campus redevelopment that would require such a hefty public expense, his request for proposals appeared to incorporate elements of the Hammes Co. report by asking for uses that complement the Alliant Energy Center’s function as a multi-building entertainment, conference and convention center. It noted that event attendees have pointed out the shortage of restaurants, retail and hotel rooms in the immediate campus area.

Parisi’s chief of staff Josh Wescott could not be reached Monday evening for further comment, but the in the request, the county acknowledged the project is a “near-term, limited initiative,” that would coincide with longer-term planning for the campus. It said a project initiated by the process would be considered “exploratory venture to discover what real estate development interest and opportunities currently exist at AEC.”

County Board Chairwoman Sharon Corrigan said the request for proposals shows both the county executive and board recognize the importance of developing the campus along its major arterial streets.

On Thursday, Corrigan will offer a substitute resolution that removes any reference to Hammes Co.’s “option 3,” instead favoring more general language. The resolution, however, still directs a consultant to develop a plan for a full campus expansion and new event venue.

Parisi has set an April 29 deadline for developers to respond to his request for proposals.

By: Jeff Glaze
Source: Madison.com


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