Tag Archives: Urban Land Interests

Revitalizing Downtown Madison Post Pandemic

Brad Binkowski

Between the pandemic and the protests, Brad Binkowski believes downtown Madison has gone through one of the most tumultuous years imaginable and looks now like it did in the 1980’s when retail moved out to the malls. He believes it’s important to remember what downtown was; imagine what it can be again; and take the steps necessary to get it there. He says private sector investment is a necessary component of that revival.

Brad stressed the importance of building underground parking to reactivate sidewalks for pedestrians and customers and said the city needs to help cover the extraordinary costs. He says underground parking is behind the success of Urban Land Interests’ development of Block 89 which turned vacant buildings and surface parking into 560,000 square feet of office space on a block that now has the highest assessed value in the city. Brad says multi-modal transportation is growing, but the reality is that tenants demand parking.

ULI is now looking to develop the American Exchange block on the square – a development that has been 23 years in the making. The project, which ULI hopes to start in 2022, will have 805 underground parking stalls and 300,000 square feet of office space targeted to tech companies. Brad says the revenue the block will generate will help the city advance other initiatives.

Brad believes Madison has extraordinary strengths: a quality of life that doesn’t exist in many other places; a labor pool that includes the highest percent of educated millennials; and the highest net in-migration of tech employees in the country. But he says we desperately need a vision of what downtown can be.

Brad closed by saying that Rotary is a force that is committed to a vision for downtown and is critical to creating a dialogue on a plan for downtown Madison and a strategy on how to get there.
Our thanks to Brad Binkowski for speaking this week and to Janet Piraino for preparing this review article. If you missed our meeting, you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/MRnkBjm9Cps.

A New View for Downtown Madison

–submitted by Bill Haight; photo by Jeff Smith

Brad Binkowski (right) seated here with Club President Ellsworth Brown

Brad Binkowski (right) seated here with Club President Ellsworth Brown

Brad Binkowski, who with Thomas Neujahr, is co-founder of Urban Land Interests, gave an overview of current developments on and around the Capitol Square.

ULI’s next project is a complete redevelopment of the Anchor Bank building, removing its dated precast panels, and adding a glass and stainless steel façade which will be “unlike anything you’ve seen in Madison,” said Binkowski.

In the Anchor project, as well as ULI’s Block 89 development, an essential component for success is replacing above grade parking with underground. Because of limited developable land and height restrictions, it’s impossible to create structures with street level energy and activity if above-ground parking is incorporated, said Binkowski. The Anchor project will have five levels of underground parking, extending under Carroll Street. Besides the Anchor property, there are only three more large sites downtown suitable for underground parking: the Judge Doyle Square development, The American Exchange Bank property, and the Braydon lot.

Epic is a significant driver of Madison’s growth, but it isn’t the only factor said Binkowski. Madison’s quality of life has attracted other firms, like office software company Zendesk, because it can find an ample workforce, without the extreme competition for talent and expense of cities like San Francisco. Among ULI’s residential tenants 56 percent came from outside Madison and their average age is 34. But just 26 percent work for Epic.

In 2011, 70 percent of ULI’s business tenants were from the legal, finance or government sectors. By 2015 that percentage has dropped to 64 percent, not because the traditional industries are shrinking, but because other sectors are growing much more rapidly. Restaurant tenants are up 29 percent and technology 143 percent. Those percentage changes, even from a smaller base, illustrate the shifting opportunity for growth, said Binkowski.

CLICK to view the video on our club’s YouTube Channel.