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Glendale Common Council rejects Hilton rezoning, international academy plan

Sept. 10, 2013

Glendale — On a 6-0 vote the Glendale Common Council on Monday struck down rezoning of the Hilton Hotel and Anchorage Restaurant site on Port Washington Road and a development agreement which would have allowed Wisconsin International Academy to re-purpose the site into the base of its international study program.

The decision follows a previous Plan Commission recommendation to deny WIA's request, which passed in July by a 5-1 margin. Unable to decide either way, the council decided in late-August to hold over the decision until Monday.

Aldermen Richard Wiese and Izzy Goldberg spoke out in favor denying the rezoning and redevelopment requests. Wiese questioned the long-term consequences of doing away with the riverfront hotel, while raising the question of where Glendale could find space for another quality hotel if the Hilton site were to be rezoned for the academy.

“It wasn’t a good fit at the Hilton,” Wiese said after the meeting. “For myself, I would wholeheartedly support (WIA locating elsewhere in Glendale).”

Goldberg said the Hilton is a resource for nearby businesses, which need temporary lodging for customers and clients.

"It's still one of the most valuable pieces of property in the city of Glendale," said Goldberg.

Mayor Jerome Tepper, on the other hand, advocated for the rezoning of the site and the WIA proposal, pointing to lost property value — WIA had offered more than the asking price and assessed value for the hotel, and was prepared to pay the city for lost hotel room tax for up to five years — and tax revenue as reasons to approve the deal.

"Financially, this is the only choice the city has," said Tepper. "I don't gamble with your money, and that's what (denying the request) is asking me to do. It's asking me to gamble with the resources available to the taxpayers of Glendale."

WIA Principal Matthew Gibson called the decision unexpected and disappointing. While WIA is currently renting space in the nearby Baymont Inn to house international students, the council's decision may force the organization to take its business out of the city to find its long-term home.

"We haven't made that decision yet," said Gibson. "In-part, the city of Glendale made the decision tonight...I don't think (a suitable site) exists in Glendale now."

After the meeting, Tepper said he is concerned for the site's future if the hotel owners can't find a buyer and the site languishes.

"I hope I'm wrong," said Tepper. "If in fact the hotel closes...it could be a big problem for the city."

Glendale Chamber of Commerce President Dale Schmidt, who has advocated for the denial, chalked up the council's decision as a win for the city. While he said he can't guarantee a sale of the Hilton site, the prospective buyer he has brought to light recently will soon be entering into preliminary talks regarding the purchase of the site.

"They want to have an opportunity to have (the hotel) revitalized," said Schmidt of those who agree with the council's decision.

Schmidt said he is working to form committees tasked with keeping WIA in Glendale and finding a buyer for the Hilton site.

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