NIMBY – Not in My Back Yard seems to be the name of the game with respect to Madison re-development initiatives from the Edgewater Hotel (see the Badger Herald article),to the potential Mifflin street re-development to “high” speed rail or to the North Mendota Parkway (not to be confused with a Beltline) .
Many Madisonians seem averse to developments that would increase density in the city, facilitate mass transit or increase pedestrian/bike traffic– three initiatives that you’d think the progressive community would welcome. Building up and creating a more dense, walkable, bikeable and transit friendly environment should be part of what drives city re-development. Continuing to live in the past with a view of Madison as a provincial “town” with two to five story buildings will only lead to the expansion of car-dependent satellite suburbs with their own high rise towers due to the lack of political will to address and encourage growth in the city.
While we don’t want unencumbered growth without adequate and reasonable historical, architectural and viability reviews by the appropriate city commissions and council, we should encourage smart growth that brings people into the city and continues to revitalize the beautiful assets that we have in the city. Without this type of vision and agreement, positive developments like Monona Terrace, the Overture Center, a slew of downtown residential options (rental and condominiums) and new hotels (Hyatt Place, Hilton) would not have materialized. While some of you might argue against these developments, I’d ask you to look at what was there before and how each of these has enriched a growing community.
Cities like Detroit and Cleveland, would be overwhelmed with joy to have positive re-development of their downtown. Madisonians would do well to do the same and work with the business community to enhance responsible developments that capitalize on Madison’s beauty while building the stature of a livable creative class city.
At the same time, city government and the council should be looking for ways and locations for a downtown multi-modal transit hub easily accessible by students, regional buses and commuters, including offering an access point for community cars, for longer term car rentals, for ground transit connections to the high speed rail station (cabs, buses, etc.) and to whatever new public transportation options evolve as the city continues to grow (streetcars anyone?). On this one, Milwaukee is far ahead of the game with the award winning re-developed Milwaukee Intermodal Station, that will be utilized to an even greater extent once the KRM commuter railroad is expanded and high speed train service is put into service to Chicago and Madison.