Sunday, September 27, 2009

21st Century Madison: Growing Pains

Madison, stop dragging your feet. Stop eyeing everything from a defensive stance and coming up with alternative plan upon alternative plan and forcing developers to compromise on their original vision. To view every larger scale proposal with such trepedation. It's tired. It's annoying.

Approve the Edgewater Hotel Redevelopment plan.
A big boost for Edgewater: Mayor Cieslewicz will support $16 million in funding for hotel August 28, 2009

Approve the plan for the new Downtown Public Library/Developers Site

To be honest though I don't have much personal interested invested in the Library and Edgewater plans. Neither would change much of anything, like connectivity or Madison's social & cultural landscape. I use Linkcat and am in and out at my local library branch, and in all the years I've been here I've never had any reason to go to the Edgewater. And is there really a need for more hotel rooms on the Isthmus?
Central Park and Commuter Rail however, I would actually utilize.

Remove the outdated building height restriction [PDF] (after a couple years of living here, you've seen enough of the capital to last a lifetime) which really came into focus when a developer "dared" to propose a project that would alter Madison's skyline.
Proposals For East Washington Protect View Of The Capitol December 21, 2005
How High Is Too High? April 2, 2006
Confront city's fear of heights October 18, 2009

That project was Archipelago Village, a 27 story development proposed by Curt Brink along the 900 block of East Washington Ave back in 2005.
E. Wash Colossus Planned The Massive Building Would Be The City's Costliest Ever March 13, 2005
Developer Plans 27-Story Project For East Washington March 16, 2005

It didn't pass go initially, but it did succeed in stirring discussion.
27-story complex stirs urban growth debate April 7, 2005
Where the project stands today;
Exciting Development Plan Is 'Alive' But Smaller September 20, 2008

Another East Washington project that didn't go through? Avenue 800 on the Don Miller lot. Gorman dropped the Avenue 800 housing and retail project because of a $2 million difference with the city over public assistance. A missed opportunity?

Next, onto areas of Madison more in need of redevelopment. Of all the main thoroughfares of Madison, the two which should take priority with redevelopment in mind are East Washington Ave and Stoughton Road (US 51). Not far behind the list would be Park Street (work has been done to redevelop Villager Mall/Developer). For far too much attention, money and development has been given to the west side over the years.

The East Washington Avenue Reconstruction Project (in phase 4)

Make Central Park/Old UOSF site (archived) happen in it's most grandiose incarnation.
Surrounded By Reality's Central Park summation.

‘Millennium park’ may come to city (an early article when the location of Madison's 'Central Park' wasn't yet determined) March 15, 2007
Central Park Plan Priorities Panel Recommends Madison Build 'First-Class Urban Park' March 5, 2008
What Happened To Madison's Central Park? It May Still Be Years Away June 30, 2009

Where "Central Park" stands today. All that's been done is the planting of a few trees. Not exactly the grand vision planners had in mind. Photo courtesy of Madison Views.
Mayor gives big boost to Central Park in capital budget September 2, 2009

P.S. NO MORE CONDOS! Madison already has a gluttony of new (and unsold) condos.
I don't know anyone (myself included) who desires to purchase/live in a condo. Most like myself want to buy homes, or live in (affordable) apartments until that day comes.
With Glut Of Condos Still On Market, The Biggest Projects Are Apartment Buildings August 9, 2009

The economic downturn has inevitably caused many projects to downsize, stall or put on indefinite hold (Central Park, Union Corners). Not to mention stir up more opposition and in-fighting.
Central Park panel backs bare-bones, affordable plan July 15, 2009
Consortium eyes stalled Union Corners development October 5, 2009
Council members want referendum on library, Edgewater redevelopment October 9, 2009

Additional reading on development in downtown Madison;
The Sky's The Limit: Downtown Madison Keeps Growing Up David Medaris February 20, 2009
Welcome To Boom Town Marc Eisen 2/18/2005

Let's get things moving on the Tradewinds Business Center! (Consulting Firm)

Southeast Business Park Breaks Ground August 5, 2006
Marcus Plans New Cinema For Southeast Madison August 8, 2006
Marcus Proposes 12-Screen Theater August 9, 2006
Entertainment Center In The Works August 11, 2008
Motel, Bowling Alley, Theater To Break Ground Soon August 12, 2008
More entertainment options for Madison's east side August 13, 2008

The Stoughton Road Revatilization Project [SRRP Brochure in PDF format]
Simply put as the website states; "Stoughton Road from East Broadway to Highway 30 is not visually welcoming. It is not aesthetically pleasing. And it does not profile Madison as a high quality urban space."
I was pleased to hear about this. I've traveled up and down Stoughton Road/Hwy 51 probably more than any of Madison's main thoroughfares, and it ain't ever been "pretty". A makeover has been long overdue.
I just think it needs some beautification. A better front. More trees, updated street lights, improved intersections (The Dept of Transportation identified Stoughton Road as having Madison's most dangerous intersections), make it pedestrian friendly. Perhaps more attractive/desireable retail & business along the Stoughton Rd/Hwy 51 corridor. Sometimes I'll drive up & down Monona Drive as an alternative (even though it's slower and has more stop lights) just because I find it to be more of an aesthetically pleasing route.
I don't necessarily believe that it needs to become a "freeway" to achieve success.

Stoughton Road Business Developments;
Stoughton Road As A Freeway March 17, 2006
$40 Million Hotel Condo Proposed April 20, 2006
Talula replaced the failed Mexicali Rose, which had replaced the long-standing CJ's
Restaurant To Open At CJ's Site June 6, 2006
Talula Starts Off On The Right Note June 29, 2008

Madison really got screwed over on the 32 mile power lines along the beltline. As if the beltline isn't ugly enough as it is!
Beltline route chosen for power line as PSC approves 32-mile project June 12, 2009

It's good to see that Arbor Gate has made full use of space off of the somewhat dismal Todd Dr and W Beltline exit, where most pre-existing structures do not make the best use of space.

I've always thought that there should be more ways to get from one end of Madison to the other, and while I wouldn't have been regularly utilizing the hotly debated North Beltline (RIP), if it would've helped to ease congestion on the Beltline I'm still for it.

In Closing; If Madison wasn't always trying to be a model city seated at the head of the class perhaps things wouldn't be so difficult for business owners and those who think outside of the box [it took nearly sixty years for Frank Lloyd Wright's vision for the Monona Terrace to be brought to reality. I could just see Madison's city leader's sitting in a locked room for sixty years debating the possible positives & negatives of the project.]

If you want to be a legitimately dynamic city, and not just a one-trick pony "college town" with Westowne on one end, Easttowne on the other, and The Capital, State Street and the University in the middle, you need to take some chances. I realize this is a planned city and not a city that just happened by accident, but sometimes you just have to let things happen and allow things to run their course. I'd like to see Madison grow around me. I've been here over 15 years now and while Madison has made some great strides in that time, it sometimes seems that the more things change the more they stay the same.

I realize there's much pull in the opposite direction. I can only sympathize for all who long for the Madison they discovered when they first moved here, for those who moved here to escape the perils of larger city life, or for those looking for the perfect & quaint small to mid-size city to widdle away their years. But the momentum of growth has already gained speed, and to stop it now would be a big red mark against the city.
As for all the growth that's taken place, I feel that it's given much more than it's taken away.

Local Development Links;
City Of Madison Department Of Planning
Competitive Wisconsin
Future Wisconsin
Wisconsin Business
Wisconsin Development News
Wisconsin Planners

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