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Madison’s Capitol East District Deserves Praise

September 26, 2019

Having long argued that the Capitol East District was the place for density and vitality it is now only proper to post a news story that trumpets one of Madison’s achievements.

There are places in Madison where high-rises and mixed-use development are perfectly arrayed.  Capitol East District is just such an example.  The Cap Times does an impressive reporting job as to why this section of Madison is thriving.

The East Washington Avenue corridor has been an on-and-off source of concern for city leaders through the past century. In 1911, the influential planner and architect John Nolen bemoaned that while the roadway was “the main approach to the State Capitol,” parts were still swamped with marshland.

More pressing than swampiness in recent decades has been the corridor’s unattractiveness and inactivity.

“I’ve long felt that the city suffers from a severe image problem because of the appearance of the East Washington corridor,” said District 2 alderman David Wallner in a 1985 Cap Times interview. “As the major East Side entryway into the city … the street’s appearance is a real eyesore.”

Patty Prime, the president of the Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association and a longtime resident of the area, said that before redevelopment, the area’s property values had been in decline, and the neighborhood did not feel walkable or accessible.

“Breese Stevens was like a hidden castle, or like in that old story ‘The Secret Garden,’” Prime said. “You couldn’t see in. Sometimes it’d be open, and you’d hear stuff, but you wouldn’t know what was going on.”

Well, no more!

I once lived on the far East Side of Madison, and when driving to work at the statehouse, I was continually amazed that no serious attempt had been made to make the area dynamic and attractive. It frustrated me that too few seemed to see the potential for the area.

Now living only blocks from this reinvigorated area allows James and me to enjoy the bustle and charm of new businesses and friends.

This type of development is smart.

And needed!

There are always those who see any development as bad.  And while there are certainly some plans and ideas that should be shelved, there are others, such as on this corridor which has proven to shine.

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