University Square’s current owner, Executive Management Inc., has unveiled plans for a new $120 to $140 million redesign project for the largest and most expensive private building in the history of downtown Madison.

Executive Management Inc. president Greg Rice is offering to replace the current University Square, 700 block of University Ave., with a 12-story, 870,000-square-foot building with two floors of underground parking to house businesses, offices and residents.

However, an ordinance passed by the City Council limiting the amount of stories buildings in that neighborhood has already thrown an obstacle in Rice’s path.

Although the ordinance restricts what the builders can do with the site, it does not drastically alter the project’s vision.

Ald. Todd Jarrell, District 8, sent the ordinance back to the Planning Commission for a different recommendation for the block.

“The plan deserves reconsideration,” Jarrell said.

Rice announced in June that he intends to work with the city, university and community to ensure the project meets everyone’s needs.

“I think this is a very prominent block as it relates to the university,” Rice said. “You want to have something special here.”

In initial conceptual presentations, both the mayor’s and chancellor’s offices showed approval.

“It is a very, very exciting project which will renovate what [the city] sees as a retired area,” mayoral spokesman Ryan Mulcahy said. “It is going to bring retail, residential and office space to an area that needs all those uses.”

Bruce Braun of UW Facilities Planning and Management also expressed excitement about the project.
“We need to continue a mixed-use development down there,” he said, adding that the university was already seeking refuge for an overload of offices in the Peterson Building.
“[The project] offers possibilities to decompress some buildings that are overcrowded right now,” Braun said.

As for other possible conflicts in the planned development, both Mulcahy and Braun could only name parking and traffic issues.

The project will include 62,000 square feet of retail space for bars or restaurants on the first floor, 24,000 square feet of commercial space on the second floor, 261,000 square feet of residential space for about 180 student apartments and 522,500 square feet of office space. Most office space would be leased to UW.

Rice plans to submit his plans to the city in the next year and to begin demolition for the project Jan. 1, 2003. The development will call for the moving or closing of the current University Square residents and businesses including several restaurants, some retail stores, a post office and some banks.

Ed Shinnick, owner of Paisan’s Restaurant, said that despite the fact that the restaurant will have to arrange a move, the renovation will actually be better for business in the long run.

“Paisan’s has been in business for 50 years, and we’re hoping to remain,” Shinnick said. “I think it is something that’s needed for the area and, if done right, will bring in more business.”