Madison’s Common Council approved the final negotiated version of the Judge Doyle Square project early Wednesday morning after a nine-hour hearing. It is the largest subsidy in city history with more than $46 million in public dollars that will help Exact Sciences Corp. move to downtown Madison.
The motion passed 12 to 6 with Ledell Alder Zellers and Maurice Cheeks abstaining. Alders Samba Baldeh, Rebecca Kemble, Chris Schmidt, Larry Palm, David Ahrens, and Marsha Rummel voted against the plan.
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin had pushed hard for the project, noting that the extraordinary opportunity outweighed any financial risk for this project in the heart of the city’s central business district. Soglin said that the overall future of downtown Madison development depended on making exceptions to the city’s usual financial practices.
Discussion on the subject went on for nine hours wrapping up with the vote at 3 a.m. this morning. The overall debate was passionate but respectful.
Critics, like Ald. Ahrens, talked about the risk council members were burdening taxpayers giving tens of millions to a highly speculative company to build another building in an otherwise thriving downtown. Others worried that time and energy and money should be focused on Madison’s more pressing problems like affordable housing and racial disparities.
The City has spent the past four months negotiating an agreement with JDS Development for the $200 million project. The council vote allows the City to enter into a final development agreement that could have Exact Sciences breaking ground on by late in the year. Twenty-six conditions must be met by the December closing or the project may still not eventually be built.
The proposed Judge Doyle Square project would be built in phases. In addition to 250,000 square feet of Exact Sciences Corp. office space, the plan includes 600 public and 650 private parking spaces along with a 216-room hotel for Monona Terrace, commercial space, and bicycle centers. More than 100,000 square feet of additional office space could be built at a later time.