Development proposals come and go. In the Cap East District along East Washington, they are coming fast. I follow along as a resident, a home-owner, a parent, but like all of us, I pick and choose when to get involved.
Proposals are just that, after all. They all will not come to be.
The proposal on the table now for a music venue next to Lapham Elementary School is one that warrants careful attention. Looking at the details, I think this particular project has the potential to permanently degrade many of the things that make our neighborhood so great.
Like everyone I’ve talked to, the first issue of concern is parking, which is related to traffic. Many of us live downtown because we mostly go car-free. I want development that pushes for smart transportation solutions that discourage car use. As it is proposed, this one doesn’t make the mark.
Can the proposal be fixed? Maybe. It depends in part on Frank Productions, and if they will be an asset and ally in the neighborhood.
The Logistics of the Proposal:
Frank Productions has proposed to build a 2,500 seat music venue as part of the Stone House development. The proposal includes a 200 stall parking garage that would be shared with other tenants of the development.
Cars would come and go via Ingersoll and Brearly streets. There is no East Washington access, which means all cars coming and going will cross the Mifflin Street Bike Boulevard.
Frank Production estimates 2-3 shows a week, though this is not a firm commitment.
On one side of the development is BreeseStevens Stadium, which has a capacity of 4,000. It is owned by the City of Madison and managed by the Parks Department. The historic stadium has just received its biggest facelift ever, paid for by the City, so that it can host more sporting events and concerts.
With the Constellation now built and "filled to capacity," parking is a problem already. It is 12 stories tall and has 275 parking stalls. The construction for the Galaxie next door is underway.
|Parking is tight in the neighborhood. Mifflin St. and Paterson St. on a Monday afternoon (before people presumably return from work) are full of cars, even without the coming Galaxie multi-destination high-rise.|
Traffic and parking are obviously going to be a problem.
The Bike Boulevard, which the City is working hard to promote in attempts to winmore first place prizes for being livable and bike-friendly, will not work with all this new traffic.
The residential side of East Washington cannot support the traffic or parking that this size venue would need. Without any changes to the current proposal, this would cause significant disruptions for the neighborhood. We would be looking at a lot more vehicles looking for parking nearby the venue at least 2-3 times a week. With most shows getting out between 11 PM-12 AM and the venue not closing till 1 AM, the impact on the residential neighborhood would be significant.
I like music, I think live music is part of a vibrant downtown, and I want the neighborhood to thrive. But this is not the right proposal, it is not the right project, and Frank Productions is not the right company for our neighborhood.
Now is the time to get involved.
This week, yet another proposal was unveiled. This one includes a 1,500 seat performance space. It would be on the Other Side of East Washington (directly across from the Gallaxie on the 800 block), away from Lapham School and the residential neighborhood. This makes much more sense, and would complement the High Noon Saloon and Brink Lounge nearby.
I just hope that the music promoters and their developers are not playing out some personal feud in our neighborhood and that we can pick and choose among proposals what is right for the community. In the Isthmus article, Tag Evers of Frank Productions said he had no comment the new proposal. "We're moving forward with ours, planning to break ground next spring and be open a year later."
A friend and lawyer who rents a house on Mifflin Street, where she has raised her two East High School kids, told me she was “trusting the process” on this one. She attends the Steering Committee Meetings and is getting involved, which is the only way the process works. [The next Steering Committee Meeting is on Monday, October 13 from 7-9 PM in the Community Room of the Constellation.]
And importantly, a coalition of neighbors who support smart restrictions on this development is growing. In order to shape this and future development, we’ll need to do things like restrict visitor parking on neighborhood streets, hold the developers to their promises, and work with the City and traffic engineers to make it easier to cross East Washington
If you care about these things, please email Alder Zellers, TLNA president Joe Lussen, and the Steering Committee chairman David Waugh. It’s important to put your concerns in writing.