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New development proposal would mean a tear down of an old Madison icon

Published: Apr. 12, 2021 at 7:56 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 12, 2021 at 8:35 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The third tallest building in Madison; that’s what JLA Architects is calling a newly proposed building near Alliant Energy Center.

It’s a privately funded $40 million project that would stand 18 stories high, along Olin Ave. to John Nolan Drive. If the project does go through, it means the Wonder Bar Steakhouse and the Coliseum Bar would be torn down, leaving one employee of the 92-year-old building upset.

“I get to come here, I get to do this,” General Manager and Bartender Brian Conradt said. “Thoroughly enjoy it, I love being here!”

Conradt has worked at the Wonder Bar for the last two and a half years.

“I mean ‘sad’ would be such a gross understatement, ‘heartbroken’ is the word I would use, nothing else, I love this place, I love the people who come here,” Conradt said.

The owners of Wonder Bar Steakhouse and the nearby Coliseum Bar have been working with private developer McGrath Property Group (MPG) for about a year on this.

NBC15 asked head of the organization, Lance McGrath why he chose that location for the project.

“We’re excited about the future and potential that the whole area has,” McGrath said.

McGrath added that his company’s development would complement the “Destination District” in Madison; which includes plans to spruce up and renovate the area near the Alliant Energy Center.

“They’re laying the groundwork for a lot of major improvements to that area, and I think this project fits right in with that vision,” McGrath said.

If the project goes through, Conradt said it is unlikely wonder bar will re-locate. So, he will make the most of the time left.

“Everyone here at wonder bar are grateful even if this comes to end, appreciate people who have come here through the years and supported us and we’ve never taken it for granted,” Conradt said.

The project still needs approvals from the Madison Common Council, and the Planning and Urban Design Commissions. Common Council Pres. and Dist. 14 Alder Sheri Carter tells NBC15 she’ll hold a community meeting about the project in a few weeks.

If everything is approved, McGrath expects construction will break ground in September, and will be finished by 2023.

Conradt also told NBC15 that Wonder Bar has been getting a surge of calls since this news of potential demolition has been circulating through the community, and asks that those with inquiries send in a message through the restaurant’s website.

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