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Madison’s Urban Design Commission Went Off The Tracks

July 8, 2017

I am not new to the issues that often surround development projects in Madison.  Living in a historic district I fully appreciate the need for strict guidelines and advocates who push for proper development as opposed to whatever is easiest for the vested interests.  But there also comes a time when those who have a little power over development projects overplay their hands, and in so doing, hurt the city at large.

Such was the case when the city’s Urban Design Commission voted 4-2 at a contentious meeting on June 28 to refuse final approval of the $170 million Judge Doyle Square project south of Capitol Square.  This is a project I have been very much in favor of for many years, and through the many design variations.   So it was troubling and even embarrassing to learn that the commission had a most contentious meeting with Beitler Real Estate Services of Chicago that dealt with topics such as the location of an elevator, a green roof, the pedestrian experience, and tree species.

These matters are not central to the project and surely could have been negotiated in some pleasant and honest ways.  To throw this project into such headlines–and needlessly so–such as over the species of trees makes Madison look simply foolish.

Of course it is not the city that earns that reputation of foolishness, but instead those such as Alderwoman Amanda Hall, who seems to smile and welcome the upheaval.  She stated in part, “I applaud my fellow UDC members for unflinchingly holding up Madison’s standards and values.”

True values and standards, indeed.  But too many of us who have watched the machinations for many long years as this plot of land seeks a development know a value from a stunt. As such the words of Hall have the same ring of too many cooks in a kitchen that really only needs a back door so they can exit faster.  

Recall that the perfect is the enemy of the good! But then in Madison too many are too afraid to update their thinking.

One Comment leave one →
  1. ally mack permalink
    July 9, 2017 9:55 AM

    You absolutely and brilliantly captured the essence of what happened at the UDC meeting for final approval of the JDS project. Committee members spending all their time looking for ants to step on and not elephants.

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