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Smart Development In Madison Is The Key

March 12, 2014

There is no way not to be in some shade of awe when  it comes to following the news over the past year concerning the rapid increase in development in Madison.  More precisely the up-scale apartment construction in downtown Madison, and around the isthmus.   Between Blair Street and State Street 396 new apartment units were added in 2013, and 1,440 either approved or under construction.

There is no way not to recognize that if one is looking to reside in a vibrant area, or relax during the evening with restaurants and entertainment that the downtown and near-by areas are the location to live or visit.  In fact one of the areas, the Williamson-Marquette Neighborhood (where I live) was named one of the ten-best places to reside in the nation.    So it goes without saying that there is much to be proud of in this city, but equally also much to fight for as we grow and expand.

This week I attended  a meeting where our local alder gathered a development team and community members to better understand a proposal for a six story building at 706/710 Williamson Street.  There will be roughly 70 units, and the average price will be about $1,800 for about 1,00o square feet of apartment space.   I walked in with concerns but walked out mostly in favor of the concept.  I have attended many such meetings over the years and there is not always such a relaxed expression on my face when it is over.  The reason I was more upbeat this week had to do with how the developers seemed intent with addressing local concerns about parking.

During the meeting there was acceptance by the developers to address and try to find solutions to the concerns about where employees of the first floor businesses would park, in addition to the traffic from customers.  Given this historic neighborhood has homes still very much as they were when Ulysses S. Grant was alive means there is every reason to wish for a façade for the proposal that in some way harmonizes with, or at least complements the charm of the area.  The developers were tuned into the discussion and cognizant there would need to be answers given and assurances made, which in the end will likely allow for this project to go forward.  (In my estimation.)

As a general rule I applaud density when it comes to development projects, and value how the ground level has businesses that add diversity to the community, and allow for more places one can walk to when needing this or that service.  Given the area that I live in my car remains parked often for days on end, and I rack up less then 5,000 miles per year on the odometer.

With more and more people concerned about ‘green living’ the idea of density and being able to work and live by walking or biking is highly appealing.  Throw in the ever-growing numbers of young professional people who want to rent instead of owning a home and there is no doubt as to why Madison has many construction cranes looming downtown.

I find no fault for Verona-based Epic or its 6,000 employees in any way for the needed development now taking place. Having up-scale workers living on the isthmus is just plain smart.  They add a very beneficial aspect to the daily mix of urban living, which I love.  The business, and the talent it brings to this area should be applauded.

Making sure that local neighborhoods where people own homes and raise families are allowed traffic patterns for calm driving, or where restaurants are not allowed patios that abut the backyards of homeowners is  not just reasonable but also polite.  With smart city planning homeowners and restaurants can (and often do) reside comfortably near each other.  While many in the area are concerned over attempts to have just another bar (at times in the guise of a restaurant) in the neighborhood we all are greatly impressed and delighted with the variety provided by skilled chefs found in local places to eat.  That is just another draw for the young urban professional that by increasing numbers are calling downtown Madison home.

There is plenty of desire from all sides of the business/customer/residential combination in this growing city to allow for more development.  When developers and residents alike are open to finding a path to grow together and not get bogged down in battles comes a stronger city.

There is an energy and dynamic that is increasing in the downtown, and there is no reason to think it is about to slow down.  All the numbers show it will only increase.  Since this area is really a destination place both to live and play the development issues at times have become more heated, but the resolve of the community to make sound decisions never falters.   With that involvement  developers have also come to realize they need to be more engaged with homeowners and community members early in the process of making a push for their proposals.

That is not only a smart move for any development team, but it will also allow for smart growth in the city.

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