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Friday, August 29, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 84.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Mayor Dave launches green scheme for Madison
Resolution calls for city to design sustainable neighborhoods
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The newly platted development would consist of a dozen or more distinct neighborhoods, each with its own 'hub,' like a coffee shop, for neighborhood activity.
The newly platted development would consist of a dozen or more distinct neighborhoods, each with its own 'hub,' like a coffee shop, for neighborhood activity.
Credit:David Michael Miller

Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's plan is to "start with the macro, the big picture," and not with the details. The details can always be worked out later, in committees and such.

"The idea here is to set some overall goals," says Cieslewicz, the chief sponsor of a resolution directing the city to plat a sustainable neighborhood -- er, make that neighborhoods -- on the city's northeast side. (For previous coverage of his dreams, see the related stories at right.)

"Neighborhood is a misnomer," he assures. "Twenty-eight hundred acres cannot hold together as a single neighborhood. It needs to be a complete set of neighborhoods."

The resolution (PDF), which will be introduced at Tuesday's Common Council meeting, sets what Cieslewicz bills as "aggressive and achievable" goals for a large-scale development plan in what is now mostly vacant land. This is an area east of I-90/94 and north of I-94 that runs to the south of East Washington Avenue.

The goals are to reduce auto trips, consumption of natural gas, per-capita water use and storm-water runoff -- all by 25%. This would be accomplished by building in design features from mass transit to terraces that double as rain gardens.

Cieslewicz says achieving such reductions would be a "significant accomplishment" in its own right, but with larger implications: "I would hope this would be a model not just for Madison neighborhoods but for neighborhoods all across the country."

This fall, Cieslewicz met with Douglas Farr, an urban planner from Chicago, who helped refine his thinking about the area, which could ultimately house 20,000 people are rival Sun Prairie in size. The newly platted development would consist of a dozen or more distinct neighborhoods, each with its own "hub," like a coffee shop, for neighborhood activity.

Cieslewicz says the overall long-term trend is toward greater sustainability, even if a global economic crisis has prompted a momentary downturn in fuel costs: "It would be a mistake to continue to build neighborhoods as if gas is always going to be two bucks a gallon."

At tonight's meeting, the resolution will likely be referred to several committees: The Plan Commission, Long Range Transportation Planning Commission, Sustainable Design and Energy Committee, and the Water Utility Board. Each will have the opportunity to review the proposal and suggest tweaks.

If all goes as planned, pun intended, Cieslewicz expects that the resolution could come back to the council for a vote in February.


Update: Mayor Cieslewicz on Wednesday indicated that the 20,000 figure given for the area's future population is "very much at the low end" of current projections. "Even at the densities under planning-as-usual, this would have been 20,000 to 25,000. I'm guessing if we do it right the area can handle more like 30,000 to 40,000. And if we do it that way imagine all the land that WON'T be developed in other parts of the county."

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