Posts Tagged ‘Madison development’

Neighborhood group mounts opposition to Mendota Ct development

January 24, 2010

Gene Devitts, head of the Mansion Hill district in Capitol Neighborhoods Inc., is circulating a petition to stop the construction of a high rise at Mendota Ct.

According to Scott Resnick, president of the State-Langdon Association (which seceded from CNI last year), Devitts claims to have over 100 signatures. Resnick says both he and Ald. Bryon Eagon, another prominent student leader who lives on Mendota Ct, received visits from Devitts, who is making the case that students in the area are against the development.

The new apartment complex, which would be eight stories and house 28 units, is being constructed by Patrick Properties. CHT Properties, another real estate firm which owns the Roundhouse apartment complex across the street from the proposed development, has also voiced opposition to the project.

The Plan Commission will be meeting Monday, January 25th (today!) at 6:30 to discuss the project. Up until now there has been little public opposition to the plan.

Madison needs new benches

October 5, 2009

Property assessors notice things that I don’t. I’m not surprised. However, in an interview with Ald. Mike Verveer, I was surprised to learn that apparently every property owner in the area, including businesses and residents, have a higher level of aesthetic appreciation than me.

Take benches, for instance. According to Verveer, replacing some of the old benches on the Capitol Square is a development priority worthy of Tax Incremental Financing (TIF). He explained that some of the current benches, which have recently been adorned with controversial “dividers,” harken back to the 1970’s and 80’s, when Madison underwent a series of city planning developments centered on the exclusion of vehicular traffic from State St and the creation of Library Mall, both of which were given “brick designs.” The problem, according to Verveer, is that the architect was an out-of-stater who failed to appreciate the threat posed by the Wisconsin winter – and much of the brick, including the brick bus shelters, has since been removed. Moreover, the wood seating on the benches is old and prone to splinters. In sum, they’re ugly and unpleasant to sit on.

However, benches are only a smidgen of Verveer’s development ambitions for the area. He wants to redo the sidewalks, which he currently finds embarrassingly uncoordinated, plant more trees and redo much of the grass on the sidewalks, as well as renovations to the Children’s Museum. He projects his plan will cost a maximum of $1.8 million, and he is cautiously optimistic about its chances of approval next week.

Verveer plans to use TIF funding for the whole project. Anybody who has paid attention to development politics in Madison has noticed that the use of TIF has expanded far beyond its original intent, which was to prop up “blighted” areas through investments that would raise property values and therefore pay for themselves by increasing property tax revenue. In Madison there are currently three TIF districts that roughly coincide with the following areas: State St, South side of the Square and the North side of the Square. The Square itself does not fall into any of the districts, however, because of a state law passed several years ago, TIF can be used to finance projects within a half mile radius of an approved district. Hence, each part of the square qualifies.

Using TIF allows the city to spend without incurring general obligation debt, as most projects in the capital budget require. As stated before, community members have voiced confidence in the effect Capitol renovations could have on property values.

As mentioned in a recent Isthmus article on the subject, Verveer’s new benches would have no dividers, which makes them likely to win the support of advocates for the homeless, such as Ald. Marsha Rummel, who has been a vocal critic of development efforts that attempt to discourage transient populations from certain areas, such as the renovation of Peace Park, which is already a popular hang out for panhandlers. The Peace Park plan would include the installation of an ATM, which, because of a city ordinance, would make panhandling within a certain distance illegal.

Edgewater politics

August 27, 2009

I had a very comprehensive discussion with Ald. Bridget Maniaci at the Old Fashioned about the Edgewater development. First I must note that I had an excellent bowl of chili, which was more than filling for one of the “lighter” dishes on the menu. Maybe I should have just gotten a cup. The onions on top were great, I wish they’d put more. When I asked Bridget if there were any good drink specials, she noted there were 2-4-1 rails on Tuesday night, which she said she enjoyed, albeit without the company of Edgewater developers, contrary to a rumor reported to Brenda Konkel. Maniaci defender herself on her own blog.

Maniaci sits on the Landmark Commission, which if you look through the entire approval process, is but one hurdle in a very long race. In fact, as Maniaci explained, Landmarks does no more than give out “Certificates of Appropriateness,” to projects, based on whether the development is “respectful” and in line with the neighborhood’s planning. The certificate isn’t absolutely necessary for approval, however, according to veterans of City Hall [Mike Verveer], it would be unprecedented for a project to go forward without the nod from Landmarks.

Nevertheless, Maniaci emphasized that the city zoning code needs updating. According to her, the code reflects the vision of a different era, when Madison was trying to develop a more “suburban” residential feel, which is where the restrictions on towers comes from. The code does not facilitate integration of residential and commercial interests, and, according to Maniaci, almost every commercial development needs to apply for a Planned Unit Development (PUD) exemption. That comes from the “Plan Commission.” Hence it is not surprising that there are imminent plans to revise the zoning code, and the city website has a zoning code rewrite page.

I couldn’t get Maniaci to commit to any position on the project, and she insists that she doesn’t know how it will ultimately fare before Landmarks or any of the other committees. However, she does believe property owners are unrepresented in Capitol Neighborhoods Inc. and points to other neighborhood groups that are more accessible to non-residents who have a stake in the community.

Here’s the tricky part though. CNI has faced the “openness” fork in the road before. Concerns over lack of student input caused State and Langdon to secede from the organization, led of course by former student alder Eli Judge. Now a pro-development group, the Mansion Hill Coalition, has formed in response to what it says is the group’s disregard for the interests of property owners and businesses. However, others I’ve talked to say CNI will unlikely change its current structure or membership rules because the leaders’ agenda does not involve development. Fred Mohs, a member of the CNI steering committee on the Edgewater renovation, is known to not be on good terms with the Faulkners, who run the Edgewater. Ledell Zellers, another member, is a very active preservationist. (I am trying to contact CNI members about the development to almost no avail)

Why is the Edgewater all we care about?

July 24, 2009

As a State Journal editorial pointed out several days ago, Madison is getting bombarded with hotel offers from a variety of developers.

Two, Apex Enterprises and Marcus Corp., are competing to build a $100 million hotel complex on Monona Terrace. Apex proposes supplementing that plan with a grocery store, restaurants and a wharf. Most importantly, both are interesting in putting in a skywalk to connect to the terrace. Skywalk!

A new Hyatt Hotel is moving in on West Washington next year, and Fiore Company would like to build a hotel if the city goes ahead with its plan to move the library.

But all we’re talking about in Madison is the Hammes Co.’s proposed development of the Edgewater Hotel. The Edgewater has become somewhat of a landmark in Madison – its hosted many a cocktail parties for the city’s upper crust for more than half a century. The chief concern it seems comes from Capitol Neighborhoods Inc. members, many of whom live in the area and worry that the new development could sully the neighborhood and the view of the lake.

Nevertheless, the plan seems poised to go through. Both the State Journal and the Cap Times have endorsed the plan – $107 million is tough to turn down in a recession. Although opposition to CNI is not as strong off campus as we students may believe, it has nevertheless been weakened by the formation of two rival groups, the Langdon-State Neighborhood Association, and the Mansion Hill Coalition, both of which support the development plan. Practically high-profile every decision CNI makes involves supporting a measure that will stymie business in the area. It was a staunch supporter of the alcohol density plan, which limits the number of bars in the downtown area. People have alleged that the organization is uncooperative and interested in promoting the interests of grumpy older people who are unhappy living in a student town.

Todd Stevens wrote a good piece in the Cardinal a couple weeks back, and gave good reasons to be skeptical of the plan.

While Hammes will be spending $107 million on the Edgewater, they are asking the city to fund a significant chuck of that, possibly as much as $15 million. With that sort of investment, Madison better be guaranteed some immediate results, particularly in the creation of construction jobs. But Hammes won’t even promise to use local workers, and instead may end up trucking in cheap labor from out of state.

But what about these other plans? Where’s the dialogue on those? Will there be similar complaints by neighborhood groups – perhaps environmental concerns. Our lakes are justly considered touchy ecological issues.