In the latest community lobbying attempt from both sides of the Edgewater debate to garner University of Wisconsin Greek house support, the hotel developer Hammes Co. bused members of fraternities to a luxury box at Lambeau Field Sunday for the Packer game.
Joe Birdsall, vice president of the Delta Tau Delta Fraternity, attended the trip, and estimated about 15 fraternity members accepted the invitation, which included the luxury box, transportation, food and some alcoholic beverages.
While at Lambeau, Bob Dunn, president of Hammes Co., gave a presentation on the Edgewater plans, detailing some of the neighborhood concerns with the original proposed plans and offering some insight into potential redesigns.
Dunn emphasized the trip was not centered on alcohol, saying some beer was drunk but mostly soda was consumed. The reason the company took the fraternity members to Lambeau Field was because of how the stadium relates to the Edgewater project.
“I think this is a good analogy of the type of project we want to work on in Madison — take an old building and give it new life,” Dunn said, adding it also exhibits how the Hammes Co. wants to make the Edgewater more of a destination.
Dunn also said he did not expect the free trip to jeopardize any objectivity from the fraternity members in their view of the Edgewater project. All he could do, Dunn said, was present the facts of the project and listen to the creative ideas generated.
“I think in the end the merits of our ideas will hopefully carry the day,” Dunn said.
According to Dunn, he invited some members of the Mansion Hill Steering Committee — one of whom was Mansion Hill Steering Committee member Fred Mohs — to the same trip offered to the fraternity members.
Mohs said he declined the invitation because he did not want to go up to Green Bay to talk about the hotel. Any discussion about the project would be better suited in a more formal manner, and not over a football game, Mohs said.
Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said he was “blown away” by the trip.
“It’s unprecedented. Very seldom a developer will offer some punch and cookies at a neighborhood meeting,” Verveer said, adding he has never seen a lobbying effort on this scale.
Ald. Bridget Maniaci, District 2, whose district contains the Edgewater hotel, said this is not the first encounter Greeks have had with lobbying efforts in the Edgewater debate, from both sides of the issue.
Maniaci added Mohs hosted an event in September at his house.
Mohs said the event had about seven or eight Greek members in attendance, along with other interested parties in the community, and food and alcohol was served. Mohs presented his model of the Edgewater at this meeting.
While Dunn said no plan is set in stone at this point, Birdsall said a possible plan entailed a scaled down version of the originally proposed high-rise tower with the height of the new building to not exceed the height of the adjacent National Guardian Life Building.
Hammes Co. is hosting a listening session at Brink Lounge today at 5:30 p.m. regarding the hotel plans.