05 May Wired to the Max: Network 222
Madison, WI. – In the shadow of the new Network222 development in downtown Madison is State Street, a famous venue for firebrand sermons on everything from the apocalypse to government conspiracies.
Up on the hill, the developers of Network222 are preaching a sunnier sort of message, one of bright ideas and high-tech innovation. And they’ve got just the temple for it.
The 200,000-square-foot office building, already home to several companies, is a $12 million project that officially opens its doors Wednesday with a plugging-in ceremony scheduled to include Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and about 200 to 300 guests. The building represents Madison’s only urban technology center, a hallmark that its owners hope will make for the beginnings of a new high-tech center in downtown Madison.
“Our vision is to have a building full of about 800 people in the high-tech sector and in the professional service arena—basically a knowledge worker-based building with a very vibrant retail piece and a place where people come to meet and to eat and do business,” said Bill Kunkler, executive vice president of the Fiore companies, which also owns and manages such developments as the Heidel House Resort in Green Lake, Wis., and Knickerbocker Place and the Inntowner Hotel in Madison.
Kunkler emphasized a few pieces of Network222 that he hopes will begin pulling in just those kinds of tenants:
Location. Situated squarely amid Madison’s crown jewels, the building (formerly the headquarters of Alliant Energy) stands next door to the $100 million Overture Arts Center and just blocks away from the state capital building, the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus and several distinctive urban housing developments that Kunkler hopes will act together to attract a critical mass of like-minded people to the district.
“There’s a lot of business networking opportunities that happen downtown, and it’s a good place to be to start a business,” Kunkler said. “We have our own selfish motives: What we’re trying to do is kind of stimulate a clustering of high-tech companies in downtown Madison where we have investment and properties. We think this is the right place for these kinds of companies to be, and I think they’ll flourish.”
Mike Klein (Founder of the Wisconsin Technology Network) and President of the Portofino Group moved his two businesses into the building to take part in what could be the second coming of the tech boom in Madison.
“San Francisco has Multimedia Gulch and New York has Silicon Alley, both of which emerged in their respective cities’ creative communities and locations,” said Mike Klein. “Now Madison ha a world-class technology center located in the center of its creative community. The mix of arts, music, education, business and government has been proven to be an environment that stimulates breakthrough technology and rapid economic growth.”
High-tech Incubator. What might give the development a little extra shine for startups is the Urban Technology Catalyst (UTC), a 10,000- to 15,000-square-foot portion of the building set aside specifically for starter companies that either are developing high-tech products or supporting the high-tech industry in some fashion.
Tenants in the UTC rent on a month-to-month lease (traditional business tenants sign for a minimum of three years).
“With the incubator project, we only ask people to make a month-to-month commitment; so that allows them to flex up, flex down, move in, move out—whatever they need to do,” Kunkler said.
Klein said the UTC’s proximity to major institutions and attractions will make it and the building “the epicenter of Wisconsin’s emerging technology industry,” and Kunkler certainly think it has a shot.
“As we look at business incubation, it’s so much more than just providing space,” he said. “You’re really trying to help support their entrepreneurialism. And the best way to do that is to put them in an environment with a bunch of other businesses, and not just in their own building. Put the building in among all the other buildings in the central business district, where people meet and greet and bump into one another.”
Infrastructure. What exactly did Fiore get for its money? Well, for starters, a voice and data pipeline that would make the geekiest geek laugh with delight.
The building is served by OC192 fiber, equivalent to about 7,500 T1 lines. Because of that, every regional fiber optic carrier and telecom company has interconnects with the building, Kunkler said.
In addition, Network222 is served by the same dual-circuit energy grid that powers the state capital building and the city’s 911 system—not the type of wiring that’s likely to go down in a pinch.
“It’s not one [for which] they’d ever say, ‘It’s hot today, we’re going to do a rolling blackout,’” Kunkler quipped.
In-house Amenities. Start with the building’s concierge and reception service. Then stroll through the 12,000 feet of retail space on the first floor. Now take a look at the in-house data center. All of them make for a place that not only should be attractive to look at and spend time in, but all too convenient to work in. And with 50,000 square feet spoken for and proposals outstanding for another 60,000 square feet, it’s looking like Fiore might have something worth noting here.
“People who see the project get pretty excited about it, because it’s really the only office building downtown that’s got a true urban feel to it,” Kunkler said. “In Madison, it’s one of the largest private commercial office buildings … in the city.”
Lincoln Brunner is a Stevens Point, Wisconsin-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to the Wisconsin Technology Network. He can be reached at Lincoln@wistechnology.com.