Downtown Madison Condo Owners Have Reason For Concern Over 14-Story Apartment Building

There is nothing quite like the building boom that has taken hold of the central part of Madison.  People who have lived in the city for many years, or served in one capacity or another in local government cannot recall a time when so may projects are either underway, or at some point in the planning process.  That speaks volumes for the energy and vitality of downtown Madison and what the isthmus and the near East Side offers for people who want to live here, and those who come to the shows and restaurants that dot the area.

But with growth comes the responsibility of making sure the city and developers get the projects designed so they are harmonious one with another, and do not create local frictions when none need exist.

First, and foremost the downtown area is growing and changing.  That can be unnerving for some, but if done with thought the end result can add much to the existing community and enhance overall life for residents.  That could happen at the proposed East Wilson location for a new high-rise apartment complex.

But as I read the last portion of a news report I had to consider what my feelings would be if this were proposed in my backyard.

On the McGrath project, another issue was a city recommendation to change the building’s HVAC system from (127) individual “wall pack” units in each apartment to a more expensive central system. The issue revolves around having utility intake and exhaust visible from 127 units outside of a high-profile downtown building.

Meeting that city condition could add $1 million in costs to the project while also reducing the square footage of rentable space. But the Urban Design Commission last week approved the project with those wall pack systems so that issue may no longer be on the table.

There is no way the city should allow in one of our new development projects the most unsightly boxes of AC units to deter from the other well designed condominiums located on either side of this proposed building.   At a time when the city is ‘thinking green’ and seeking ways to make for better use of resources there can be no justification for not forcing developers to provide central air.  Anyone who lives near the lake and understands what humidity is in the summer knows the value and importance of central air.  Given the confines of an apartment and lack of air flow among windows is yet another reason to make sure there is central air.  If one wants to keep the apartments at a rental rate so to insure economic viability and all that comes with it, thereby further reducing the fears of condo owners over lower property values, central air needs to be installed.

My mentioning of the HVAC system in no way means that condo owners do not have larger concerns about a 14-story apartment building alongside their homes.   Some of the concerns seem quite sincere.  But when I read about the AC system it struck me as so horribly dealt with by the developers that it looked like a place where reason could wipe away the problem and show the resolve of those pushing the plans to make right with condo owners.  It is often with such steps that larger issues then can be better compromised with and all parties can feel better about any eventual deal.

The debate about high density housing is not new, and not over in this city.  We are at the tipping point, I suspect, in allowing the concept to take control, and in many ways I approve and applaud the move.  But as we move along it should be noted that with small tweaks and compromises developers can make for better buildings and less contentious neighbors.

“Mr Selfridge” Should Be on Your Viewing Agenda

ct-mov-0329-chicago-closeup-20130329-001

A few weeks ago a friend on Facebook made what turns out to have been an awesome recommendation for the series “Mr. Selfridge”.  James and I read a bit about the show and ordered the complete first season from the library and have watched the first seven episodes and are LOVING it.  I can not praise the show enough.

At the unfashionable end of Oxford Street in 1909 London, an American retail tycoon arrives to jettison fusty British tradition and open one of the finest department stores the world has ever seen: Selfridges. Three-time Emmy winner Jeremy Piven (in his first television appearance since his iconic role as Hollywood agent Ari Gold in Entourage) stars as Harry Gordon Selfridge, the flamboyant entrepreneur and showman seeking to provide London’s shoppers with the ultimate merchandise and the ultimate thrill.

Emmy Award-winning writer Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice, Bleak House) conjures the opulence and excitement of Selfridges and the story of its founder, a man of exuberant, outsized, and potentially dangerous, appetite. Behind Selfridges’ lavish shop windows, gleaming counters, and majestic doors, appetite intersects with ambition and desire not just for Harry, but for his staff, his family, and the various women drawn to the store and the man

Hats Off To Mitch Eveland, Owner Of Lake Mills Market

52d5df0bbfe16_preview-620

I suppose stating that Mitch Eveland is a long time friend for the past 20 years, and one of many on my Christmas card list should be mentioned at the start of this blog post.  In spite of that I trust my words will be clear and objective about the reasons I feel so proud of the news he made this week.

Pyramids of produce, trays of sushi, 99-cent packages of Oscar Mayer hot dogs and a cafe with a fireplace and flat-screen televisions greeted shoppers as the doors of the $7 million Lake Mills Market opened here Tuesday.

The 48,000-square-foot store becomes the second full-service grocery store in Lake Mills. And while it will mean direct competition for the Sentry store in downtown Lake Mills, owner Mitch Eveland said one of his primary goals is to capture the estimated 30 percent of Lake Mills residents who do their grocery shopping outside of the city of 5,700 people.

From the first talks I had with Eveland back in 1994 I have been continually struck with his knowledge of the grocery business, but more importantly with his passion for the various parts of what makes a grocery store best serve the public.  I recall his stories about how one of his first jobs was as a kid at a grocery store.  When I met him he was employed with a chain store and one of his duties was to make the ads for the local papers.  His involvement with each aspect of the business built one step at a time to the point that he knows what it takes to meet the expectations of shoppers while creating a great working environment for employees.

I was very glad to see Eveland’s big idea for a new store in Lake Mills take off with such success and fanfare.  While we are all aware of business people just wanting to make money, there are others who wish to make a difference in communities and address a need that exists.  Such is the case with this large and robust grocery store that will serve the diverse requirements of the area.

When I first met Eveland he was living in a grand Victorian house, the very type that I had always admired as a kid, and hoped to live in at some point in my own life.  It was a joy to see how he decorated his home, and I was impressed at how orderly and neat it was kept.  In time I was to understand he gave the same devotion to his job and those he supervised.

The folks of Lake Mills and the surrounding area are most fortunate to have not only a new grocery store in the area, but a good business person with a solid foundation as a member of their community.

Wausau Mayor Jim Tipple Shines Shoes Of Wisconsin Tavern League, Vetoed Sober Server Ordinance Less Than 24 Hours After Council Passage

It was not totally unexpected given the power and reach of the well-funded Wisconsin Tavern League that their members would call and complain over the action this week by the Wausau City Council which passed an ordinance ordering bartenders to be sober when working.  What I did not envision, however, was the limp-wristed reaction to Wausau Mayor Jim Tipple who caved faster than a house of cards in the afternoon wind.

Less than 24 hours after the ordinance was passed by a council vote of 8-2 vote the major had vetoed it.

In typical fashion the mayor weighed in with a political comment that lacked foundation.  Tipple suggested there was not opportunity for enough community dialogue on the matter.  In other words the debate went the wrong way, the council members who listened to the testimony and dealt with the facts and substance of the ordinance were wrong, and Tipple was going to save the day for the Tavern League.

Which is exactly what he did.

The posting of the meetings about this matter were all done in accordance with the law, and the same opportunity was made for all to be at the meetings and make their voices heard.  Whose fault is it when the Public Health and Safety Committee voted unanimously to recommend the ordinance last month and not one single tavern worker was present.  Perhaps folks need to pull themselves off the bar stool and engage with the rest of society.  The process was open and fair and the only thing  Mayor Tipple and the Tavern League can complain about is the end result.

It should be noted that Police Chief Jeff Hardel told the council this week that when officers respond to taverns where there are fights and other such behavior the bartender is intoxicated about half of the time.   For any elected official in Wausau to pretend they have never heard of such problems, as Tipple claims, is ridiculous.   Maybe there needs to be more one-on-one conversations between law enforcement and the mayor’s office so to allow for a better understanding of what the police deal with in the real world.

The end of this story is the same that plays out over and over when it comes to the powerful forces of the Tavern League that makes sure no serious legislation ever emerges and survives, which is exactly what happened with this ordinance over the  no higher than 0.04 percent blood-alcohol content level required for servers.  The Tavern League has always been front and center in stopping needed legislation.

We saw that play out in Wausau where a democratic process allowed for a 8-2 vote in favor of a sober server ordinance only then to be vetoed when some angry bar owners and employees made contact with the city.  If that is all it takes to shake the stride of a politician the voters must seriously ask exactly what their mayor is made of, since it clearly is not one of spine.

Meanwhile the average citizen who wants safer roads with fewer drunk drivers do not have a powerful set of lobbyists and are left to hope that elected officials might do the right thing when it comes to alcohol related policy matters.  In Wausau it seems pretty clear which elected ones work for the people, and those who do not.