Controversy over the hotel portion of the Judge Doyle Square project continues as Madison hoteliers speak out against unfair competition and City Council members consider amendments for living wages.
Deb Archer, president and CEO of the Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau, said she thinks the hotel would complement the Monona Terrace and serve Madison’s tourist industry.
“Judge Doyle Square is something that will transform our downtown like Monona Terrace. Tourism is an important drive for our community,” Archer said.
The Visitors Bureau can bring optimal business to the community by having this hotel, Archer said. The project is a piece of the puzzle that has been missing since the Monona Terrace was built, she said.
Stephen Zanoni, CEO of the Madison Concourse Hotel, spoke against the hotel and said he was concerned that a subsidized downtown hotel of similar size to the Concourse would significantly impact business.
“I am extremely concerned about this project and the impact it can have on our hotel,” Zanoni said. “We bring in over 90 conventions and conferences to Madison each year.”
Another point of controversy centered around the living wage for the hotel’s employees.
Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said because the project is receiving city financial assistance through tax incremental financing, city officials proposed an amendment to the project to require employees to be paid a living wage.
The living wage is like minimum wage but is geared more toward what the consumer price index is, Verveer said. Under this amendment, all hotel employees at the lowest end of the pay spectrum would be paid whatever the living wage is set to at the time, he said. Currently the living wage for the City of Madison is $12.45 an hour, he said.
Verveer said he has thought about various aspects of this project for a long time after serving on the Judge Doyle Square Committee and as a member on the Monona Terrace Board. He said he is enthusiastic about many parts that are not controversial such as the replacement of the Government East Parking Ramp, renovations to the Madison Municipal Building and the addition of retail, office and residential developments to the block.
Verveer said he thinks the hotel could be a positive addition to the city.
“I know full well that Monona Terrace can’t really compete with many pieces of convention business because our hotel room blocks that are available to conventions are not adequate,” Verveer said. “We are not able to even submit bids for a lot of conventions.”
The Hilton Hotel that is connected by skywalk to Monona Terrace is supposed to supply a 150-room block for Monona Terrace conventions, but Verveer said that number is insufficient for the types of meetings the terrace is looking to attract.
Despite disagreements, City Council decided to continue with further negotiations with JDS Development Group.