New Construction Awards 2005: A New Business Environment

Sept. 30, 2005
Private/Corporate Winner: South Tower Addition, City Center West, Madison, WI

City Center West is a 15-acre New Urbanism project unlike anything Madison, WI, has ever seen before. The facility, located on a mixed-use development site, is a 420,000-square-foot, 8-story structure combining two towers, and is part of a seven-building master plan. Within 5 years, four additional office buildings will be added to the existing two office towers, retail center, parking structure, and public plaza to complete City Center West.

One of the project’s biggest challenges, according to Terrence Wall, president at Madison, WI-based T. Wall Properties, was convincing the City Council, the Plan Commission, and other city officials to radically modify the initial City Center West plan. “The original site plan called for the typical cul-de-sac surrounded by four 3-story buildings. Instead, we wanted to create a New Urbanism project - one that would include a mix of uses,” Wall explains. Now, different from anything else in Madison’s commercial real estate market, City Center West boasts four times the density of its original plan (the project is built to a density FAR of 1.0, unheard of outside of Madison’s downtown area) and sustains a pedestrian-friendly environment.

Construction began in October 2000 and was completed in two phases. Positioned between Madison’s most heavily traveled highway, a hotel, a busy strip mall, and a hospital, there was limited access to the first tower’s location. Since few materials could be stored on-site due to space constraints, delivery scheduling was vital to the success of the project. The first tower was completed in November 2001; construction of the second tower began in March 2002 and was finished in July 2003. Despite having only 7 feet of workspace between the two buildings, the second tower’s construction had to be completed without disturbing the tenants already occupying the first tower. “Limited access to the site was a challenge throughout the construction period. Not disturbing our neighbors (as well as the tenants in the first tower) during construction and connection of the towers was an especially delicate matter,” explains Wall.

Built on the concept of “people come first, cars come second,” City Center West was built unlike most suburban developments during the last part of the century. A Chicago-class grand entrance plaza provides a place for people to come together, enjoy lunch, view local artwork, walk or bike, and take advantage of the retail services offered. “Instead of a huge sea of asphalt, the project employs structured parking hidden at the rear of the site behind the buildings. Once you have parked your car, you walk under the protection of a covered (and, in winter, enclosed) canopy into the buildings where you can get your morning coffee,” describes Wall. A library, fitness center, board room, conference center, and other features present tenants with the opportunity to interact, providing occasions for relationship-building and future business prospects. A bank of television monitors in the lower lobby allows tenants to check weather, news, sports, and West Beltline Highway traffic.

Reducing typical operating expenses at City Center West, the addition of back-up generators permitted an interruptible power agreement with the local utility company. The agreement removes the building from the utility’s electrical grid when shortages are encountered. In the event of an outage, two individual 2-megawatt generators provide continuous power to the entire facility, which is critical to tenants’ businesses (no other leased space in Madison provides 100-percent uninterrupted power). In addition, dual-level lighting systems and mechanical equipment setbacks help the facility reduce its operating expenses.

City Center West also boasts one of the most sophisticated security systems in Dane County, WI. Admission to the building is controlled by a card-access system allowing authorized users after-hours access to the building, along with controlled access 24/7 to highly secured areas. The surrounding property and entry points are monitored with 38 cameras on a CCTV system. Digital recording cameras and security personnel effectively monitor the building and have already been put to the test (in May 2003, the cameras captured a burglary in progress, resulting in the capture of the suspects). Other safety features include pressurized exit stairs, a central control station for fire department control and monitoring, and a voice communication system that has one- and two-way communication. In the event of an emergency, the alarm and communication system’s voice alarm delivers prerecorded messages from the central control station to speakers throughout the building.

Combining the best in security and life safety, tenant amenities, New Urbanism ideals, and energy efficiency, City Center West has become a landmark on the west side of Madison: “Not just by nature of its sheer size, but really more so by its reputation as a quality, friendly, warm place to work,” says Wall. “Just seeing the reaction on people’s faces and hearing them ask, ‘How did you get this approved?’ was a real treat. Everyone has been amazed.”

Leah B. Garris ([email protected]) is associate editor at Buildings magazine.

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