Yeah well, it makes me giggle that there's this funky, alternative local weekly which claims to represent this part of the city, and I'm pretty sure it used to, but is now staffed by yuppies and snobs who look down their nose at those who try to do something positive for their neighborhood. I'm probably going to laugh out loud when both the isthmus and the Isthmus are gentrified to point of irony.
I don't want to cause this topic to disintegrate into stupidness the way so many do, but there's a lot of truth in this paragraph. I've been reading Isthmus since Issue #1, and it's changed. Of course it has. The times changed and the people changed, or grew older. This is not wrong, it just is. (OK, the paychecks may be another matter...)
I wouldn't blame Madison's newer generation for starting a new newspaper. In a way they already have, on line, but it's in so many pieces we can't point to one site or two and say "there it is." While it's not exactly accurate to say Isthmus once represented the Langdon part of town, cooltapes's point stands. (The campus-centered part of town in the mid-20th century was more about the Daily Cardinal, Badger Herald, and Kaleidoscope/Take Over, for historical purposes but not relevant here.)
The Langdon area hasn't changed that much, not quite yet. Some might think it's decayed, but from my viewpoint it hasn't. It's always had messy spoiled rich-kid housing where they throw food, grubby and fun coops (those date to 1967 if I am correct -- I can make a few quick emails and get verification if we want to digress), a few really ugly tall structures like the one somebody mentioned earlier on Gilman, along with what might be called "good bones" (snob-sounding term that it is). It's still got a significant stock of substantial older housing, some in good shape and some not. By substantial I mean not what's on the 400 block of W. Mifflin, for comparison.
Now various forces are trying to catch Langdon up to what's happening over on Johnson with La Ciel et al. It's the change-over-time process Isthmus has undergone, just in residential not journalistic form. I think Langdon can go a different way if its residents work hard -- maybe. This takes a sustained effort that never lets up (you're constantly on defense) and requires building political connections along with neighborhood organization. The results could be retention of the small-scale character of several blocks in a lakefront neighborhood. This succeeded in the Wil-Mar neighborhood in the 70s so there is precedent, but you will likely see gentrification (think expensive) as has occurred in the lakefront parts of Wil-Mar. Fixing up older buildings is not cheap, but to provide more than one kind of student-centric neighborhood and housing seems seems worthwhile just because people and their housing preferences are so different.
Is there a third way? I think a few people here are saying there is, although I'm not real clear on the details. Maybe they're advocating a mixture of tall-new and old-short. I think this gets clumsy when you consider view, sunlight, scale, and a few other factors, so I'd like more detail. But repeating the past is definitely not the only way to guide change, and quite possibly it can't be done anyway.
However, absent any efforts to steer in another direction, cooltapes is right. Given the prevailing market forces, things either completely fall apart or get "gentrified to the point of irony," and the La Ciel-on-Langdon (or on the lake) model will prevail.
In my experience, the lively part of town is a moving feast and over time different areas receive attention, are settled by younger people, artists, and whoever's there, are stabilized, get boring (from the viewpoint of the next generation) and the cycle repeats. If you give up on Langdon there's always somewhere else, much as I'd hate to see Langdon-land disappear.