Some Dane County businesses are using empty square footage to their — or the community’s — advantage.
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Ovation’s lucrative rooftop
Hovde Properties didn’t originally plan to generate revenue from its 13th floor Sky Club space at Ovation 309, notes CJ Wessel, vice president, marketing and residential. It was designed to be a resident amenity for the tenants of the building’s 248 apartment units. At one point, in fact, the company considered adding a swimming pool instead, but with the stunning views of the state Capitol and Madison’s downtown, plus an outdoor deck with fire pits and furniture, it soon became clear that the space could become a unique revenue generator for the company.
The 13-story view from Ovation 309’s rooftop Sky Club showcases the state Capitol and Madison’s downtown.
“We still maintain a delicate balance for all of our spaces,” Wessel clarifies, noting that first and foremost, these are amenities for residents, meaning public or corporate bookings cannot exceed 50% of the available dates each month.
The exclusive Rooftop Sky Club has two gathering spaces — the Sky Club and the Sky Lounge. The entire floor can accommodate about 100 guests for a sit-down reception or about 150 for a networking event, and guests are free to roam outside on the deck as well.
Anyone using the space must work with one of three Hovde-preferred caterers who are very familiar with the building, its elevators, and kitchen. One important note is that the building does not carry a class B liquor license, so if alcohol is served, it must be complementary. Wessel says some companies have provided alcoholic beverages and provided guests with drink tickets because a cash bar is not allowed.
Ovation 309 has two other rentable areas as well, she offers. There’s a seventh floor Veranda complete with barbecue grills, and a spa that’s open to the public, complete with a massage therapist, personal trainers, and nutrition programs.
Meanwhile, interest in the top-floor space continues to grow as word gets around, Wessel adds, and costs depend on the day of the week and the time of year (most of December is already booked). If a business rented the entire Sky Club on a Friday or Saturday evening, including the outdoor deck space, the cost would be $3,900 plus vendor costs. Rates are more affordable Sunday through Thursdays, when cocktail or networking events are charged on a per-hour basis.
As for parking, Ovation has enough parking on site to accommodate Sky Club guests, Wessel says. The controlled-access, heated public parking lot is available for an hourly rate.
“The rooftop Sky Club now has its own revenue goals and we are exceeding them,” Wessel says. “We’ve already beat our budget for 2018, so it’s definitely growing in popularity. It’s a hidden gem, really.”
Insuring community giveback
With all the goodwill that American Family Insurance spreads regularly throughout the region — and the list is long — it’s not surprising that the company also takes a different approach when it comes to sharing some of it’s available and unused meeting space.
When not being used for American Family Insurance purposes, the Herman Wittwer Auditorium can be booked for qualified nonprofits at no charge.
For the right cause and mission, a qualified nonprofit can use available AmFam rooms at no cost, but first it must submit a questionnaire to ensure that its mission is in alignment with American Family’s.
“American Family supports improving the community for families and children. That’s a big part of our focus,” states Linda Wagener, media relations consultant. Every request must be approved.
Jeff Voelkel, community investment at AmFam, is involved in the approval process. “There was never an intent that I’m aware of to make money on this idea [of sharing unused space],” he notes. “It was meant for nonprofits to use in a philanthropic way.”
The questionnaire is a tool that helps staff determine if the organization’s request is a good fit. It also provides AmFam staff with pertinent contact information so they can work with the nonprofit, discuss their needs, and help them determine the best use of space and equipment.
“We have a variety of nonprofits that use this space,” Voelkel says, “and we want to be a good host, so the intent is to give them a place to use our space in a positive way.”
AmFam has about a dozen possible meeting spaces to offer, accommodating as few as 15 people or as many as 300 in the Herman Wittwer Auditorium, named for the founder of American Family Insurance. Standard meeting rooms include audio-visual capability, screens, tables, chairs, and white boards, and ample parking also is available.
“Madison has a lot of nonprofits operating on shoestring budgets or in tiny offices,” Voelkel explains, “and sometimes they just need a place to meet with volunteers. Where do they go for that? This is a way to give back and allow these organizations the opportunity to meet in a very nice facility and get their work done. For me, it’s one of the neat things I get to be involved with.”
Outside groups were able to use American Family’s office spaces about 70 times in 2017. More impressive, those events attracted more than 8,900 attendees.
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