Anyone in Madison, Wisconsin who isn’t aware of the Edgewater Hotel development controversy is trying hard not to pay attention. The proposal calls for an 8-story (most recently) addition separated from the old section by a plaza overlooking the lake and stairs leading down to the lakefront (although the Department of Natural Resources says the proposed pier is not allowed).
The controversy generates strong feelings pro and con. Proponents cite jobs and tax revenue needed in the recession, improved lake access, and additional needed hotel rooms. Opponents decry the building size and height out of scale with the historic residential district, and unprecedented large amounts of tax-increment financing for a project with relatively few permanent jobs, lake access that already (technically speaking) belongs to the citizens, and insufficient revenues to pay back the TIF.
Both sides, however, share a dismay over the development review process. Some claim that the process is “broken” and needs to be fixed. Others feel the process works but is being corrupted by this project. To shed light on whether city-building in Madison is “broken,” I thought it would be useful to look at recent completed developments in Madison. What do they tell us about the ability of the city, developers and citizens to grow a healthy, livable city?
The first project featured is the Park Central Apartments on Ingersoll and East Wilson Street. Developed by Stone House Development, Park Central includes 76 affordable units in the state’s first
“certified multi-unit Green Built home.” Built on the former site of Badger Cab, with its above-ground propane tanks, the apartments overlook a “bicycle boulevard” and what, dare I say it, may actually become Madison’s new central park.
Although I did not participate in the neighborhood review process, I heard that it went smoothly and the neighborhood and Stone House worked cooperatively.
This case seems like a win for the process. Certainly the outcome is positive for the neighborhood and the city. I hope that people who participated in this process will chime in with comments about how they felt it worked.
I also hope people will suggest other developments to review as examples of how the process works or doesn’t work (the voice of my poly sci professor is asking, for whom?) and why or why not.