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Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

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Re: Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby BenjaminPierce » Mon Nov 05, 2012 8:06 pm

I did look at Legistar, at the meetings going on that year for the Landmarks commission and who attended. I noted Stu Levitan was present at those meetings as "historian"--I note he is on this thread...did I peg that one Mr. Levitan?
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Re: Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby Stu Levitan » Wed Nov 07, 2012 3:01 am

Benjamin, the Landmarks Commission ordinance mandates that one seat be held by a historian. On the basis of my book on the history of Madison, Mayors Cieslewicz and Soglin appointed me to serve in that capacity. The Commission has since given me the extra honor of electing me as Chairperson. I hope that answers your question.
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Re: Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby snoqueen » Wed Nov 07, 2012 3:08 pm

The lackluster maintenance (or planned non-maintenance) of older buildings on valuable downtown property is longstanding, well-recognized, and perfectly deliberate. As long as the landlords keep them up to code nothing can be done. Lots of features in these older buildings are grandfathered in, so older standards apply. And keeping an old building in great condition isn't cheap.

It's sometimes called benign neglect, and it's been going on for decades. It makes financial sense to the landlord but has lots of downsides, as BenjaminPierce notes.

If you've got a solution, speak up. The trouble with lawmaking is we have to listen to everybody's side, not just one or the other. (You wouldn't know that looking at Scott Walker, but never mind.)

If I had my way, we'd keep these nice old buildings in top shape and be proud of them individually and for the neighborhood they create. We'd build larger-scale student housing facilities in areas where we'd be replacing old firetraps, roach villages, and rusty obsolete Trachte buildings with up-to-date and efficient residences, grouped together to form new neighborhoods of their own. Instead we're doing it piecemeal, without effective long term planning in many cases.

From the landlords' point of view, the sooner their old properties turn into firetraps and roach villages, the sooner they can rip them down, or sell them to someone else to rip down.

Neighborhood associations were formed to counter this very tendency.

The student neighborhoods today have weak associations (if any) because students are inevitably transient and don't live in one place long enough to build an association and create continuity.

You're so right, BP, but you're just beginning to grasp an entrenched system with its own internal logic that's very hard to overcome or dislodge. I don't think anyone's intentions are plain evil, but it's hard to find grounds for compromise the way things exist today. Great old buildings are lost every year, or every few years, and they're replaced mostly by decidedly less interesting structures.

In time, people come to love the good parts of the new cityscape and forget the old. So another thing we can be doing, in addition to trying to save the best of the old, is helping attract and create new buildings, walkways, parks, and streets with charm and appeal for future users.

It's a big subject with lots of ins and outs and you can spend your lifetime working on it. I like reading what these newer forum posters say (I take them to be students -- I might be wrong). I wish I had easy solutions, but there aren't any. Welcome to the real world -- and I'm not being condescending when I say that. I encourage anybody interested in any aspect to grab this opportunity to apply their personal skills and interests to the very complex subject of urban planning.
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Re: Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby Cooltapes » Wed Nov 07, 2012 5:05 pm

UDC meeting today at 4:30PM, subject: initial approval of this project. I believe it's Item #11 so it should be awhile.

If only we had a neighborhood dialog on this. The process instead has been a dog and pony show, limited to questions (1 each, with numerous time checks to keep on pace to "wrap this up soon"), with various iterations of design proposals (probably drawn a well before the initial meeting) seeking to compromise on anticipated concerns which haven't even necessarily been raised, let alone stressed. I understand that's how the game is played, let's not indulge in a shared illusion that the design team is responding directly to what was said at the meeting. Especially when, if you wandered in off the street, you'd be forgiven in assuming that our alder was part of the design team.

As far as urban design- just because there may not be a way to save these buildings, or to make a landlord maintain them, should not upend or censor a discussion of what we are losing. If not for Ben's reading some of the link I posted on Monday, there would have been no mention whatever of the 3 buildings to be demolished, or that they are contributing buildings to the National Historic District. That's not right.
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Re: Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby snoqueen » Wed Nov 07, 2012 7:42 pm

I'd be the last to censor the discussion. The more people see what is being lost, the more chance of saving some of it, now or in the next project.

I'm just kind of burned out and cynical watching the same disappointing dog and pony show unfold time after time over the last few decades. I remember the loss of Mapleside, a beautiful stone farmstead on University Ave, lost to a Burger King, back in the 70s(?) -- the original impetus for the committee reviews we have now, for better or worse. I'm sorry if it came across as censorship.

I hope you guys continue to use this citywide forum as an organizing tool for a neighborhood dialog. That would be great. There's a lot of varied expertise in the university area and to pull some of it together in service of making the Langdon area more beautiful and liveable is a goal more than worthy.

In more than one case I can remember, it took a big loss to plant the seeds for a strong neighborhood association. Henry Street could be the key to a real grass-roots Langdon-area association that's independent of the usual big names.

You might compile a clickable directory, with pictures and history, of other neglected Langdon-area buildings likely to be at risk.
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Re: Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby Cooltapes » Mon Nov 26, 2012 10:09 am

Landmarks meeting regarding the 9 story monolith is today at 4:45PM Room LL110 at 215 MLK, I believe. Item #3 on the agenda.

http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/ ... 963f4.html
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Re: Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby snoqueen » Tue Nov 27, 2012 10:05 am

http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/ ... 963f4.html

Landmarks rejected the proposal on the grounds the building would be out of scale with the neighborhood. I wish the neighborhood could continue to have smaller-scale buildings as well so I see this as at least a temporary victory.

At the same time I thought the renovation plan they presented for the boxy lakeshore building nearby, which is not as landmark-relevant, was worth a look. Maybe they'll follow up on that separately.

Remember Edgewater started out like this, and look what a battle that turned into. Sometimes the developer puts out a huge proposal to see if it flies, and holds back a scaled-down one to present later on if necessary. So don't drop the organizing effort.

I tried to watch the meeting on the city channel but found they weren't broadcasting it.
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Re: Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby Cooltapes » Wed Dec 05, 2012 4:54 pm

There will be a meeting of the Urban Design Commission today to discuss initial approval of this proposal at 4:30PM in room LL110 at 215 MLK (across the street from City Hall). Item #6 (Unfinished Business) so it will probably be 1/2 hour to an hour into the meeting.
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Re: Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby Cooltapes » Thu Dec 20, 2012 5:16 pm

An item not be lost in the snowstorm:

The UDC voted last night to reject "The Waterfront" proposal, based on it not being appropriate for the neighborhood.

Yay, neighborhood wins. Now, we should do what the city plan calls for and make this a local historic district.
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Re: Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby snoqueen » Thu Dec 20, 2012 5:55 pm

Thank you for the update.

Yes, it's time for a push to protect Langdon's best, and keep the Mendota lakeshore beautiful and natural. I hope this can be realized. The place for tall residential buildings is over on Johnson Street and Gorham Street.
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Re: Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby Ducatista » Fri Dec 21, 2012 2:10 pm

Sno, maybe you and I can cruise Mendota some day and compare notes on the lakeshore. Because the reality (scale, capacity, current state) that I see doesn't square with how you post about it. I respect your opinion, so I'd be interested to view that familiar landscape through your eyes.
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Re: Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby snoqueen » Fri Dec 21, 2012 7:08 pm

I guess it boils down to one question, or maybe one image. Do you want the north shore of the Isthmus to look like the south shore in 20 years?

The south shore is a done deal and I'm not one to rail against what's already done. But I think keeping the north shore more up-north-lake like (and that's not crazy, considering to 90% of the country we are up north) is a worthy goal. Mendota is an extraordinary lake. It's very deep, there's at least some chance of cleaning the water over the next few decades due to its fairly small watershed, and much of the shoreline is relatively wooded and natural (Picnic Point, much of the University, various parks, the north shore, even the large houses on large wooded lots in Maple Bluff). It's my wish to preserve that "look" around as much of the lake perimeter as possible. I think in terms of scale and capacity, I am saying less is more, and you're saying bigger is better.

(For one thing, maintaining a natural shoreline filters rainwater before it runs in the lake. We have enough storm sewer runoff already, and to add to-the-waterline deveiopment doesn't help in terms of cleaning the lake over the long run.)

From reading what you post over time, I am thinking you would like to see the isthmus's Mendota shore look more like its Monona shore. Also, I get the sense you are in banking or real estate and see it in terms of land dollar value first. (Maybe I'm wrong about that.) Everybody's got their own perspective, there's nothing intrinsically wrong with yours (if I read it right), but I just disagree. Of course this is a decades-long city debate, not just you and me on this forum. And in terms of trends, as I wrote to the original poster on this topic, I'm taking the side that tends to lose. Not always, but many times.

I wouldn't want to freeze development downtown or make Langdon Street into a museum (which looks pretentious when it can be enforced). I believe restrictions on scale, preservation of vegetation, and limiting density in certain areas are a legitimate part of urban planning.

I know we disagreed over Edgewater, with you saying you liked the lake-edge recreational and social opportunities it could provide. I don't see any reason you can't have those opportunities without building up the whole north shore of the isthmus. Wherever people live together, recreational opportunities will be met creatively through the natural business cycle. Madison does pretty well in that regard.

For what it's worth, I think the heavy-duty tall-building development belongs not only along Johnson-Gorham in the campus area, but in the long term belongs out on the Beltline. (It's already started on the west side and near the Alliant center.) I think the north half of the Isthmus should be deliberately steered to a more intimate-scale that happens to center on our unique and very beautiful capitol building, the University, and Overture, while non-government-related business, big retail, and industry should be more convenient to the Interstate, beltline, and airport.

That's my long term wish.

When we lost the possibility of a rail connection we put the last nail in the coffin for making downtown a center of commerce. That was sad at the time, but for the sake of a human-scale, walkable downtown and beautiful lakeshore, it was a gift.
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Re: Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby Stebben84 » Fri Dec 21, 2012 8:53 pm

snoqueen wrote:For what it's worth, I think the heavy-duty tall-building development belongs not only along Johnson-Gorham in the campus area, but in the long term belongs out on the Beltline.


Sno, that was a well thought out response, but my only problem is what you are talking about is urban sprawl. You have a much more vested historic interest in what Madison "used" to be. I see it as one where the downtown continues to grow and look/be interesting. This may include changing the landscape, but it should be done very systematically with all the proper vetting. Tall buildings don't always make things look ugly; it's how you build them that matters. Madison has a beautiful skyline and that won't change, but it will look different as time goes on. We need to accept that and fight for what looks right along with what will help this community grow. It's growing and we can't stop that.
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Re: Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby snoqueen » Fri Dec 21, 2012 9:46 pm

I want Madison to grow and change too. The alternative is stagnation and eventual decay. A lot of what we now have downtown has reached the end of its useful life and I have no problem replacing roach motels and firetraps. What "was" is of little interest to me compared with what is and what can be, with the exception of a few unique and irreplaceable buildings. I think saving some of those and building adjacent ones in scale is desirable in a defined area, such as Langdon.

Even the coolest old building in the best repair looks pathetic sandwiched between two big tall ones. That's why we try to develop scale guidelines for neighborhoods with old buildings worth saving and why we do shadow models and calculate the viewshed from various locations.

I disagree that tall or dense development along the beltline is sprawl. Are we trying to keep that the way it was when Treasure Island built the squiggly roof? What else do you put there? It's noisy and congested. The best way to make something good of that is to go up. Ten stories up, you are above the noise, congestion, and pollution and can have a quiet workspace, hotel, office, or whatever with a great view. For example, when American TV is replaced, a taller building might be just fine. We've already developed the area and there's nothing to preserve, so the sprawl factor is a given. The only way to unsprawl it would be to tear things down and return it to greenspace, which is very rare.

I define sprawl as further development of greenspace, and I'm opposed to that in general regarding Dane County. We need to use what we've already developed, but use it better. Redeveloping the Beltline is no more sprawl than redeveloping the 500 block of University Avenue.

Taking another approach: what taller buildings in the downtown area do you like today? I know you said you liked the 70s life insurance building on Wisconsin Ave, and I don't totally hate it either, although you couldn't build it today because no one leaves that much lawn around anything. What else? Maybe we can agree on some specifics.

I've said before I love the Hillel building on Langdon and think it's a terrific example of in-scale, smaller infill.

I think State Street is a weird puzzle. From the outdoor dining area on the top of Overture, you can see how what's fronting State is short (3 stories or less, generally) while everything around is getting taller and taller. Is this foolish? On the other hand, do we want the whole place to eventually look like the beltline of any city in America? I see no easy answers or totally satisfactory ones.
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Re: Don't Demolish. Rehab! Iota Ct/Henry St Redevelopment?

Postby Cooltapes » Sat Dec 22, 2012 7:17 am

In this case we're also speaking of more than just a shoreline, which in this case wouldn't be visible in the same way as the south shore since there's no equivalent of John Nolen Drive. There is a lakeshore path called for in the long-range city plan, which if it were ever to be built would require seizing that part of all lakeshore properties from James Madison to the Union (including my cooperative house.) And there's a Mid-Block Path in the city plan, also called for in the just-rejected proposal, which cut a path between the shore and Langdon St- though Langdon is only a block from the shore- which would require seizing more property including my cooperative house's driveway. This 9-story building, twice as tall and 10 times as large as each of the surrounding houses (except maybe only 6-8 times as large as the 150 Langdon The Lodge) was going to go up next door. So, my house faced- still faces- development on 3 sides, one which would eliminate our shoreline, one eliminating the driveway built as part of the house in 1927-

http://www.cityofmadison.com/neighborho ... alkway.pdf

-and one putting us in the shadow of a monolith. We were not involved in the approval process for this city plan (which is particularly egregious in light of the fact that as far as I can tell we are the ONLY property affected such a way by the Mid Block Path), which apparently was approved in January of this year.

As someone outside the neighborhood, I'm sure it must seem like a neighborhood of transient students who don't put down roots enough to about where they spend their 4 years, long as it's convenient. If this were a neighborhood only of renters and landlord/tenants then the Volunteer Downtown Design Professionals Workgroup involved-

http://www.cityofmadison.com/neighborho ... nProfs.pdf

-could simply play with the people's properties, put a path here, a big building there, with no ill-effects. But how would you feel if you called one of these period revival architecture houses a home for over a decade (Clinton was still president when I moved in) and were then invited to a meeting where it was announced that there's interest in development on 3 sides of your house?

Paths are not the only thing the city plan calls for, however.

http://www.cityofmadison.com/neighborho ... s/Key7.pdf

The Langdon neighborhood is a National Register Historic District neighboring the Mansion Hill Local Historic District, with only a slightly less density of contributing buildings. Landmarks Commission had the opportunity to weigh in on the Iota Ct. proposal because it borders a Landmark, "The Lodge."

Recommendation 168 of the City Plan:
Prepare an inventory of historic properties in the Langdon Neighborhood and consider creating a local historic district that is generally coterminous with the Langdon Street Register National District.


http://www.cityofmadison.com/neighborho ... s/Key4.pdf

(Search: Langdon)

Recommendation 77: Encourage preservation and rehabilitation of contributing historic buildings.

Recommendation 78: Encourage relatively higher density infill and redevelopment that is compatible with the historic context in scale and design on non-landmark locations and sites that are not identified as contributing to the National Register Historic District.


Since passed in January, what has been done? We've seen the construction of the ultra-modern 229 Lakelawn jutting up against the contributing Acacia frat, elimination of height and width restrictions, groundbreaking at the Edgewater Hotel at the end of Langdon, proposal of new apartment complex which would have been larger than the Edgewater tower from street level up (118,299 sq ft compared to 102,470 sq ft,) and the proposed replacement of the 130 year old Theta Chi building at 210 Langdon. More development in my neighborhood in the last 12 months since calling for a local historic district than in the past 12 years. How exactly will driving a stake through the heart of the National Register Historic District help to create a Local Historic District?
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