Madison Park Commission approves $1.6M to clean up contaminated Garver Feed Mill site

July 14, 2017 GMT

The Madison Parks Commission has approved $1.6 million for remediation efforts after contaminated soil was discovered at the landmark Garver Feed Mill on the East Side.

The commission voted 5-1 late Wednesday to approve financing and a development agreement to allow Baum Development to turn the crumbling Garver Feed Mill, 109 S. Fair Oaks Ave., into an artisan food production facility and add up to 50 “microlodging” units averaging 250 square feet for short-term rental on the surrounding five acres.

The long-delayed plan had been complicated recently after the extent of soil contamination required further city investment.

“The building is in very tough condition. It suffered, but it’s salvageable,” said Bryant Moroder, a project manager for Baum. “If we didn’t think it was going to be done, we wouldn’t be here.”

The $1.6 million to remove and cap the soil would need to be borrowed, and it requires a super-majority vote to be passed by the City Council. It would add to the $1.8 million the city intends to invest in the redevelopment.

Council President Marsha Rummel, whose 6th District includes the site, said the building should be kept to preserve Madison’s history.

“(Garver Feed Mill) is a part of our heritage, the East Side of Madison. We’re the industrial part of town,” Rummel said. “It’s a gorgeous building, and it has a lot of potential.”

As part of its action, the Park Commission also approved a development agreement between Baum and the city that details ground leases, the sale of the Garver building and a lease back to the city to share a cold storage building.

Ald. David Ahrens, whose 15th District abuts the property, argued against providing the $1.6 million for remediation, speculating on additional costs the city might incur.

“I think this is a very long road to go, and it’s a dark road. We don’t know what’s really out there,” Ahrens said. “The only thing we know is just the next step, another $1.6 million.”

Rummel, though, argued that Baum is vested in seeing the project to completion and touted its benefits.

Dan Rolfs, city community development project manager, said that the site would need to be cleaned up regardless of whether the Baum project goes forward. Although, he said, the cost would be less as only the “hot spots” would need remediation.

“We’ve owned this for 20 years, and we haven’t really done much to it,” Rolfs said. “I hate to say it, but there’s a bill to pay.”

The Olbrich Botanical Society gave the city the Garver Feed Mill site in 1997.

Because the city would retain the land under the development agreement, Rolfs said, the responsibility of cleaning the soil falls on the city.

The financing and development agreement is set to go before the city’s Finance Committee and Landmarks and Plan commissions before potentially reaching the City Council sometime in August.