NIMBY Grows as Madison Grows

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.


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3 thoughts on “NIMBY Grows as Madison Grows

  1. I submit to you that the reason Detroit and Cleveland need a revitalized downtown is because they became cities instead of remaining towns. They had smart growth at one time and now it is gone.

    If your argument is that ‘growth will occur someplace else if nothing is done’ I vaguely recall the words of a California governor who famously said ‘So what you are telling me is that if I send the water to LA then LA will have all the growth and if I keep it here then Sacramento will have the growth. Send the damn water to LA.’

    Sometimes growth is not the best option.

  2. The Overature Center is an enormous drain on city (and taxpayer) resources. It is overbuilt for the market, and it drove out a number of community-based arts groups who used to use the Civic Center but can’t afford the posh rent at Overature. Its business model requires large numbers of Madisonians to attend travelling versions of Broadway shows (which can be seen in many other cities).

    Personally, I was happier when the Civic Center and Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry were located there. Jerry Frautschi’s gift is truly a white elephant (ornamental but useless, expensive to maintain, and unable to be refused).

  3. There is opposition to the Edgewater redevelopment from the left is because of the 16 million dollars in TIF subsidies that Hammes is seeking to redevelop the site (after spending a lot of money lobbying the Mayor Cieslewicz and the city council). It’s a perversion of TIF to give the Edgewater redevelopment any money (as part of the TIF requirements they are advancing the argument that that area of downtown Madison is blighted).

    As for the North Beltline project, aside from being a potential conflict with commuter rail (budgets are zero sum games. If you are funding a North Beltline, that means you are not funding something else, like commuter rail), it’s the wrong solution to traffic problems. The North Beltine is the Los Angeles solution to traffic problems (build roads like crazy) and isn’t very environmentally friendly at all. It’s no coincidence that Dane County Board conservatives like Eileen Bruskewitz are pushing the North Beltline.

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