The downtown plan

What are the things that puzzle, enrage, delight and tickle you as you go about your life in Madison?
narcoleptish
Forum God/Goddess
Posts: 3770
Joined: Mon Mar 14, 2005 1:35 am

The downtown plan

Postby narcoleptish » Thu Jan 27, 2011 10:34 am

Usually I'm trying to save the East Side Vibe, but since others stepped in there, I'll throw a little cpr to the downtown.

http://www.thedailypage.com/isthmus/art ... icle=31930

Thoughts on this article? Same old arguments about height on the isthmus, developers all characterized as greedy and self-serving, but also the admission that the height limits make for a boring table-top aesthetic to the skyline.

When these discussions come up on here it's usually just bitching about buildings people think are too tall or too ugly. Any anti-height people want to give your feelings on sprawl?

I've seen city E. Wash corridor plans that were full of tall buildings. Can anything like that happen, even in a better economy, when there will always be a handful of neighbors who will oppose it. Seems like it's always one step forward and two back for near-east side/E. Wash development.

rabble
Forum God/Goddess
Posts: 7690
Joined: Tue Jun 10, 2008 7:50 pm

Re: The downtown plan

Postby rabble » Thu Jan 27, 2011 10:50 am

Table top skyline? I know this is just me talking but who the hell cares? The Capitol is the skyline. Get rid of that and I don't care what wonderful things you've built around it, it's boring as hell.

But I'm basically resigned. My favorite views are inbound John Nolen and Atwood coming from Monona out by Olbrich park, gazing at the Capitol building at night. I don't expect either one of them to be there a whole lot longer. Not in this political climate.

gargantua
Forum God/Goddess
Posts: 4965
Joined: Sat Apr 13, 2002 1:30 pm
Location: Madison

Re: The downtown plan

Postby gargantua » Thu Jan 27, 2011 11:58 am

I don't remember how far from the Capitol they extend, but there are building height limitations surrounding the Capitol that are set in state statute. Any developer complaints about city ordinance would thus have to relate to structures outside that zone, unless city ordinance is more restrictive than state law within the zone.

I value the Capitol view.....and I like tall buildings. You can do both....for example on the e. Wash corridor, which starts at a significantly lower elevation than the Capitol building. Again, if the statutory height limitation is over a mile, it might be hard to have an economic rationale for interesting/tall buildings that far from downtown.

narcoleptish
Forum God/Goddess
Posts: 3770
Joined: Mon Mar 14, 2005 1:35 am

Re: The downtown plan

Postby narcoleptish » Thu Jan 27, 2011 12:25 pm

If the capitol is the only kind of building you can appreciate then I don't know what to tell you, but the buildings that surround it don't have to be boring, and many in the last decade or so haven't been imo. I also think a city full of 4 story buildings IS boring and inefficient. A 15-18 story building at the base of the hill the capitol sits on, is barely noticeable from the vantage points you name. The YWCA is right across the street and you can barely see that.

snoqueen
Forum God/Goddess
Posts: 12803
Joined: Fri Feb 14, 2003 11:42 pm

Re: The downtown plan

Postby snoqueen » Thu Jan 27, 2011 1:27 pm

Uh-oh, another lengthy city planning dissertation here....

The height restriction goes for one mile around the capitol (about to Ingersoll Street to the east) and is a state statute not a city rule.

There's also a height restriction under some parts of the flight path to the airport, and those areas include the same part of E. Wash as the one-mile restriction includes. I believe in some places the flight path restriction is lower than the one-mile state statute restriction.

Obviously the state statute is nothing but a law and they could change it. The flight path restriction is another matter and we have to assume it'll stay.

When I attended some of the planning meetings for the E. Wash corridor a few years ago, the committee agreed on fairly tall building heights (within existing restrictions) for many of the blocks on E. Wash between the Yahara and Blair Street. I believe these planning documents are still on the city's web page if anyone wants to look. I think the avenue would look really nice with some tall buildings leading up to the Capitol, but nobody's come up with the money to DO any of this.

Regarding height limits, I think we should keep the downtown skyline (Capitol hill) as it is. It's part of what makes Madison beautiful and unique. I do like tall buildings though, and the immediate Capitol area is not the only place we can build them. Consider how the campus area along University Ave. is now filled with tall campus housing replacing a mess of old three-story firetraps. I think this looks OK and sets a good example.

We could also use clusters of tall buildings -- residential and commercial -- around East Towne and in the area west of West Towne (where we've got a good start, actually), and along parts of the Beltline. The East Towne area in particular has great airport and highway access and is underutilized considering how the era of malls is rapidly passing. (The downtown is really not the center of commerce in Madison -- it's mostly the center of government, law offices, and conventions.)

Whether we ever get a train or not, the outlying areas mentioned are far more convenient to reach than the downtown and would take traffic pressure off the skinny little Isthmus. We should be glad the downtown is relatively isolated and can be a comparatively quiet hub for government and conventioners while the truly busy stuff, commerce, can have its own heavy-traffic centers in several separate locations. This geographic setup is an asset not a liability.

My highest priority is avoiding more greenfield development, which is sometimes a mirror-image to increasing density and sometimes not. Tall buildings properly situated are part of the solution.
Last edited by snoqueen on Thu Jan 27, 2011 1:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Ducatista
Forum God/Goddess
Posts: 4433
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2004 12:31 pm
Location: 53703

Re: The downtown plan

Postby Ducatista » Thu Jan 27, 2011 1:35 pm

gargantua wrote:I value the Capitol view.....and I like tall buildings.

Me, too. And I'm a long-time resident homeowner in the Mansion Hill Neighborhood—you know, the 'hood that people who spend zero time there suddenly got all protective about when they heard the word "tall."

rabble
Forum God/Goddess
Posts: 7690
Joined: Tue Jun 10, 2008 7:50 pm

Re: The downtown plan

Postby rabble » Thu Jan 27, 2011 2:51 pm

narcoleptish wrote:If the capitol is the only kind of building you can appreciate then I don't know what to tell you

After we've given the builders an inch and the Capitol is just a shiny thing you glimpse behind some very impressive and wonderful buildings, maybe you'll be able to think of something.

I believe it can be done, but I don't believe for one minute that's what will happen. They're going to very politely build until you have to be on State or East Wash to see it.

Detritus
Forum God/Goddess
Posts: 2664
Joined: Wed May 13, 2009 9:42 pm

Re: The downtown plan

Postby Detritus » Thu Jan 27, 2011 3:06 pm

I like tall buildings and I like the capitol too. If you have spent any time in Austin, TX, you have seen what happens when the capitol is hemmed in by taller buildings, even one as garishly colored as theirs. But frankly, even aside from the statutory limits, I don't see a real problem here, especially down the East Wash corridor--you'd have to get far taller than would make economic sense before you'd hit the bottom of the dome on that side. Also, don't forget that that entire stretch is really swampland, not at all as stable as the hill and points west. That may not prevent tall buildings from developing, but it will make them significantly more expensive.

Tall buildings on the edges of town are not going to happen until the population increases and/or land prices become ridiculously expensive. It's cheaper to sprawl out.

roadkill bill
Forum God/Goddess
Posts: 1697
Joined: Thu Dec 19, 2002 12:33 am
Contact:

Re: The downtown plan

Postby roadkill bill » Thu Jan 27, 2011 3:33 pm

Detritus wrote:Tall buildings on the edges of town are not going to happen until the population increases and/or land prices become ridiculously expensive. It's cheaper to sprawl out.


Or gas gets expensive enough that people want to live/work/shop/play closer to the rest of their lives. Or the government stops facilitating driving everywhere, making those long commutes/shopping trips more of a time suck.

Obviously, either of these scenarios would make the population density afforded by tall buildings more attractive. Density is a product of tall buildings, not a cause.

On the other hand, local government might wise up to the fact that paving over some of the best farmland in the country (world) is not a great strategy. Food prices can also be affected by distance to market when gas gets expensive, and it would be a shame to have built highways and parking lots over the land that could be producing food close to home. Not to mention the flooding issue....

narcoleptish
Forum God/Goddess
Posts: 3770
Joined: Mon Mar 14, 2005 1:35 am

Re: The downtown plan

Postby narcoleptish » Thu Jan 27, 2011 4:44 pm

rabble wrote:
narcoleptish wrote:If the capitol is the only kind of building you can appreciate then I don't know what to tell you

After we've given the builders an inch and the Capitol is just a shiny thing you glimpse behind some very impressive and wonderful buildings, maybe you'll be able to think of something.

I believe it can be done, but I don't believe for one minute that's what will happen. They're going to very politely build until you have to be on State or East Wash to see it.


I just got the idea that you didn't like any of the buildings around the capitol now, and maybe you don't. Anyway, building heights around the square are not going to be allowed to block the view, and as was mentioned earlier, buildings down off the hill would have to be really tall to affect the view. I think most developers would be happy in the 10-15 story range. If you're building on E. Wash you're going to want the top stories to have views of the lakes. Those are the views that will help pay for the project.

snoqueen
Forum God/Goddess
Posts: 12803
Joined: Fri Feb 14, 2003 11:42 pm

Re: The downtown plan

Postby snoqueen » Thu Jan 27, 2011 5:37 pm

The fact (mentioned above) that the flat part of E. Wash (Blair - Yahara River) is costly to build "big" on is a major issue.

The land there is only a few feet above the level of Lake Mendota and has considerable underground water. When I attended the presentations for the (never-built) development of the 900 block of E. Wash (Curt Brink's proposals) the developer found out they'd need pumps running 24/7 most times of the year in order to keep any underground parking dry. In addition the subterranean structure would have to be extra strong to withstand pressure from waterlogged soil. This posed significant capital and operating expense and was a poor use of energy resources.

Given there are plenty of DRY sites available more suitable for tall, heavy buildings, I think we'll be waiting a while for skyscrapers across from Breese Stevens Field.

Come to think of it, isn't East Towne another filled-in marsh? Upland areas are to the east and north, but that mall used to be one big wetland. If our weather keeps getting wetter, I wonder if someday we'll see wetland reclamation supported the same as brownfield remediation is today -- all necessary for the public good.

snoqueen
Forum God/Goddess
Posts: 12803
Joined: Fri Feb 14, 2003 11:42 pm

Re: The downtown plan

Postby snoqueen » Thu Jan 27, 2011 5:39 pm

http://www.pbase.com/image/52752741

Link is to photo of Austin capitol skyline at night. You decide.

rabble
Forum God/Goddess
Posts: 7690
Joined: Tue Jun 10, 2008 7:50 pm

Re: The downtown plan

Postby rabble » Thu Jan 27, 2011 6:17 pm

narcoleptish wrote:I just got the idea that you didn't like any of the buildings around the capitol now, and maybe you don't.

I"m sorry, I wasn't clear with my "who the hell cares" remark.

I don't care about the buildings around the Capitol now. Perhaps it would be more precise to say I'm indifferent. They provide a backdrop that does not irritate me.

I also don't care about future buildings around the Capitol as long as they don't interfere with my view of it. As I said, I believe they are going to interfere with my view of it in my lifetime and there's not a damn thing I can do about it, except maybe slow it down a little.

Stebben84
Forum God/Goddess
Posts: 5989
Joined: Thu Mar 02, 2006 12:59 pm
Contact:

Re: The downtown plan

Postby Stebben84 » Thu Jan 27, 2011 10:29 pm

snoqueen wrote:http://www.pbase.com/image/52752741

Link is to photo of Austin capitol skyline at night. You decide.


Here is a better comparison:

Image

Image

ArturoBandini
Forum God/Goddess
Posts: 2256
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2008 11:54 pm
Location: near west

Re: The downtown plan

Postby ArturoBandini » Thu Jan 27, 2011 11:17 pm

Stebben84 wrote:Image

My eyes are bleeding!!! :roll: No, seriously, what's the big deal? Has Austin been disfigured to the point that no self-respecting business or individual would want to be seen with it in public?

I'm not a native Wisconsinite, to the degree that I don't even know if Wisconsinite is even a remotely acceptable term. That said, I don't really understand why the view of the state capitol building is so important. I get that there is a certain symbolic significance to the building, but we shouldn't let symbolism take precedence over brick-and-mortar development. Of course, this opinion is influenced by my political predilections which leave no soft spot for government-related pomp and circumstance.


Return to “Town Vibe”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Yahoo [Bot] and 1 guest