This will generate Open Graph meta tags for t

"We are Traffic" and We Live Here

This post follows two earlier posts about development of the 1000 block of East Washington next to Lapham Elementary School. The proposal from Stone House Development includes affordable housing with its own underground parking, as well as commercial space and a high-capacity night club to share about 260 parking spaces. Parking conflicts, and increased traffic on residential streets, are the major concerns expressed in opposition to the project at neighborhood meetings and the neighborhood listserv.

The earlier posts:

We are all banking on our own vision for the future of our neighborhood

Counting parking spaces is just one way to try to quantify an elusive feeling that this isn't the way I would like to see my neighborhood evolve. 

In my vision for the neighborhood, we will focus on making our streets friendlier and safer for people by reducing car traffic.

In my vision for the neighborhood, we will welcome development that contributes needed services to support our long-time and elderly residents, as well as the newer people who are investing in and improving older homes.

In my vision for the neighborhood, we will build a lively and livable urban neighborhood that is attractive to anyone who wants proximity to downtown, our lakes, and our river.

In my vision for the neighborhood, we will prioritize people and value parks, green space, walkability and local schools and business.

Reynolds Park during Make Music Madison 2014

The Parking Problem

The development, as proposed, asks for an exception to be made to the official requirements in place for parking spaces per square feet of building space. The exception would be made not because the parking isn't needed but based on a presumption that the surrounding neighborhood can absorb the cars.

Alder Ledell Zellers clarified the details of the special request succinctly on the neighborhood listserv:

"The [proposed Frank Productions] concert hall would require parking stalls equal to 20% of the capacity of persons, or 500 stalls for a 2,500 capacity venue. Thus, they are asking for a reduction of 240 stalls (48%)."

Stone HouseDevelopment and Frank Productions, who would own and run the 2,000-2,500 seat music venue, have commissioned a parking study by a consulting group that seeks out "place-based design solutions." The parking study was presented at a public meeting with the neighborhood steering committee a week ago with the claim that is supports their argument. Iit has not yet been given to the steering committee for closer inspection.

My pro-bike/pedestrian bias tends not to trust parking and traffic studies. These are the kinds of expert advice that cause planners to add lanes to highways in order to handle traffic problems.

Biking home from work today, I started counting. The commissioned parking experts counted “all the parking spots” on the streets as a baseline. I decided to count houses without off street parking. In other words, houses with residents who depend on street parking.

I counted 37 houses with no off-street parking. The range of the commissioned study is larger; I was counting only between the 700-1100 blocks of East Mifflin and East Dayton Streets, as well as on the single block of the streets that cross them.

The value of those residences is based, at least to some degree, on the availability of street parking. We used to own one of those houses. When we put it up for sale in a competitive market, we learned the real value of off-street parking.

We are traffic?

When I moved to Madison in 2001, my first friends were made at Critical Mass bike rides. So when one of these long-time acquaintances shared his thoughts on the proposed development for the 1000 block of East Washington, it got me thinking.

He wrote: "Speaking as an advocate for alternative transportation, the lack of car parking is a HUGE positive - as parking INDUCES automobile use. We cannot let our fear of the safety impact of automobiles fool us into creating more infrastructure for automobiles that actually increases the overall risk. With proposed (but on hold for now) commuter rail stops only a few blocks away, this is a prime location to generate rail traffic."

My friend's comment reminded me that I have gotten quite distracted by the more-than-obvious parking issue.

I want the answer to be that we don't need to drive everywhere. I want to move smartly into the next era of planning, and living, when we build for people, not cars. I truly wish we were talking about where the commuter rail stops should be instead of parking problems.

Sharing a Vision & Building a Future Here

The future of this neighborhood is up for speculation. We are all guessing about what causes and effects will play out.

City Planners deemed the neighborhood worthy of special help in 2005. A City Planner recently explained a Tax Incremental Financing District (TID) as a progressive and effective measure to jump-start projects in areas where developers are nervous about investing. 

More specifically, the TID “froze” property values in the designated area at 2005 values. All while this TID is in place (possibly until 2032 though not necessarily), all taxing entities are drawing money based on these 2005 property values. In other words, the City, the County, MATC, and MMSD benefit from a 2005 value for their tax base. However, if the properties actually increase in value, which is the aim, the “increment” of taxes over and above the 2005 rate goes back into the TID. Then, when the TID closes, the full benefit of the taxes goes to all the entities as per usual.

The proposed project is the kind of thing a TID is meant to inspire (though the proposed location is outside the Cap East TID and would require an extension be made). It’s important to note that Tax Incremental Financing is also meant to “provide funds to construct public infrastructure” and “generate value growth.

Parking continues to be a big problem but it is not the only one. Parking is, however, something concrete to talk about. It is much harder to articulate the more nuanced reasons why a large concert venue feels wrong for our neighborhood.

What is our VISION for the neighborhood?

As always, email Alder Zellers and David Waugh, Steering Committee Chair, with your concerns and ideas. 

No comments:

Post a Comment