Tuesday, October 07, 2008

How big is a bubble? Big enough to crash and leave a huge hole in Madison.

How Big Is a Bubble? Big Enough to Crash and Leave a Huge Hole.
You might call this the scar left on the face of Madison by the real estate bubble and the credit crisis it spawned. This is the big excavation made by developer Joseph Freed & Associates last fall, running all the way from their Hilldale Shopping Center on the east to Segoe Road on the west. At the corner of Segoe and University they were going to build a huge new Whole Foods store, but Whole Foods just backed out. Originally, the store was to be accompanied by two new condo buildings. One of them was dropped, replaced by plans for a conference hotel, and then the second condo also was dropped. Freed officials say they still hope to build next spring, but even that seems uncertain. Meanwhile, we can amuse ourselves by coming up with names for the muddy little body of water at the bottom of the Big Dig. Lake Freed? Freed's Folly? Lake Need?

Weston Place: Towering In Lonely Splendor Over a Now Vacant LotThe Weston Place luxury condo now towers in lonely splendor over a vacant lot. When it was built on Segoe Road several years ago, it tested the question of how far away from downtown you could successfully build and market a luxury condo. (Not nearly this far, apparently, since quite a few units are still unsold.) The nearby and recently upgraded and upscaled Hilldale Mall was supposed to be a major draw. How could you lose when the shopping center featured "America's first Sundance Cinema"? And there was a big new super-duper Whole Foods store headed for this very spot. Now it's a wasteland, although Mother Nature is always resourceful, and it seems to be greening up nicely, at least at the edges.

Looking Down at the Big Hole from the Big (Partially Unsold) CondoLooks like this will be the view for lower level residents of Weston Place for some time now that the Whole Foods project has been canceled. Having Whole Foods as a neighbor might have helped boost sluggish Weston Place sales a bit, but now the site is just an eyesore.You can (literally) overlook it from the upper floors, but down here at ground level it's right in your face.

It's a sad tale of hubris and "irrational exuberance," but at least there is one sure winner.


Bud "Seek and ye shall find" Diablo said...

I mistakenly posted my comment on this picture in the "Thanks, Congress" section just below. At first, I thought you deleted it because it was so hard-hitting, but it's safe and sound. A reader will find himself well-rewarded if he scrolls down to read it, as I therein reveal how to make money in today's frenetic stock market.

froggyprager said...

good post and photos to capture the story. It seems too bad that they demolished those offices and the theater that were there. While they were not the best looking, I bet he could have leased them to someone for a low rent for something. I bet the developer will have a very hard time finding someone else to build something on this large site. This city should require that they clean up the site at least. Grade it and seed it and turn it into a park until the market improves. While the existing whole foods is often crowded I am not sure how much more money they thought they would be able to make from their bigger store. The cost to build their new big store would have been huge and how many more people would go there are spend more.