July 26, 2010—
MADISON, Wis.—-I’ve found the perfect comfort zone at the Edgewater Hotel on Lake Mendota in Madison.
And it is about to get bigger.
The hotel’s porthole windows and flowed, curving exterior lines in original brick and steel reminds me of South Beach. But this less LeBron James and more of the smooth soul of Etta James.
In May the city council approved plans to move ahead on major redevelopment of the property, which opened in 1948. Regular readers of my stuff in the Chicago Sun-Times and my blog know of my affinity of the Edgewater and its streamlined design that replicates a cruise ship.
I love the hotel’s cute names like the Pleasure Pier, where the Gibraltar Rockets, my favorite regional reggae band performs on Thursdays through Labor Day, the Admiality Room and The Cove, a cocktail lounge which features more than 100 celebrity photographs (Sonny and Cher, John Prine, Warren Zevon and yours truly, next to Yankees second baseman Bernie Allen).
The hotel is in the Mansion Hill historic district and because of that it has not been easy to move forward on the proposed $98 million redevelopment. A private pool, spa and restaurant will be added on top of original 1948 building. A grand staircase will be built for pedestrians to move six stories from Wisconsin Avenue down to the lake.
The sticking point with a couple of neighbors is a secondary tower with 100 new hotel rooms, 12 deluxe condominimums, restaurant, sidewalk cafe and public park with new parking. The tower has been brought down to eight stories from 12, to appease the neighbors. One neighbor is continuing efforts to stop the project.
But the final city council meeting that approved the redevelopment began at 7 p.m. and ended at 7:40 a.m. the next day, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
“The Edgewater is an internationally known independent property,” second generation owner Scott Faulkner said last week. “We’re going to keep it independent and take it to the next level.”
Faulkner hopes for groundbreaking in March, 2011 with the project expected to be done in the following 18 months. He does not expect the Edgewater to close down during work. The pier—where Tommy Bartlett Ski Show performed before moving to the Wisconsin Dells—is also scheduled to be expanded.
The project is being done by Bob Dunn of the Hammes Co. in Madison and I did not know his pedigree.
Dunn redeveloped Lambeau Field, the home of the Green Bay Packers. Dunn also did Ford Field in Detroit, the new Meadowlands Stadium (Giants/Jets) in New Jersey and is working with the NFL to build a new stadium in Southern California. “He lives about two blocks from me,” Faulkner said. “He’s been after me for 10 years so a couple of years ago we sat down and talked.”
Dunn has called the Edgewater “Madison’s Living Room.”
And I’m the guy crashing on the sofa who never wants to leave.
The original Edgewater architect was Lawrence Monberg of Chicago, who designed a couple of other Art Moderne buildings near the Edgewater and the 1938 remodeling of the 160 W. Burton Place building in Chicago (where building tiles were replicated from Edgar Miller’s designs). The Quisling Brothers of Madison built the Edgewater. hotel. In 1948 they drafted Austin “Augie” Faulkner from the fabulous Drake Hotel in Chicago to become general manager. Faulkner became owner of the Edgewater in 1963 and received permission from the Drake to model the Edgewater logo after the Chicago property.
Scott Faulkner’s son Ross, 23 is now running the hotel’s pier operations and is in line to become the third generation manager of the hotel. Besides the Rockets, J.P. Roach the son of John Roach (former Steve Dahl television producer and co-writer of “The Straight Story” screenplay) plays acoustic guitar every other Tuesday sunset sets on the pier. Ever the intrepid music fan, I’ll return to the Edgewater this Thursday to catch the Rockets after last Thursday’s show was rained—and tornadoed out.