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The future of Union Corners

What are the things that puzzle, enrage, delight and tickle you as you go about your life in Madison?

Re: The future of Union Corners

Postby snoqueen » Sat May 21, 2011 9:47 am

narcoleptish wrote:
SombreroFallout wrote: It also resorts to a false choice, that somehow density can't be combined with quality proposals that include realistic civic spaces and functional green elements.


If people understand so well then how could they be led to this conclusion? What I said, and what should be easy to understand, is that when elements like these are included, the dedicated space will not be generating any income thus the spaces that do will have to generate more, which usually means building up.


The really aggressive developers work hard to lead people to this conclusion. Then along comes another developer with a different viewpoint and he'll realize adding green space generates income by increasing the overall value of the property and its individual parts. It does, too. Who wouldn't prefer to live near a little pocket park, given a choice?

I think it comes down to two things: 1) the attitude of the developer (wring every last cent out of the place and leave, like Friedman at Hilldale, or give a few inches and have a project that integrates better into the neighborhood -- see the 600 block of E. Johnson for one that works, and has nice greenspace); and 2) the skill of the design team. A good design team can get the developer and neighborhood together in a lot of cases where a stubborn team wipes out.

Other workable but well-scaled designs are along the Wilson Street- east side bike path in the 1100 block and at the Livingston intersection. Those took a LOT of planning hours and it paid off. Add the Yahara River apartments at Main and the river -- one of a number of highly successful Commonwealth projects. And add the condos in the 1100 block of E. Dayton, done by Sveum. Those took months and months of discussion, green space and trees were saved, and it worked.

Smaller is not a failure, by the way. Maybe if they broke Union Corners into parts and did one at a time, we'd have more progress. It doesn't all have to be done by one company.

narcoleptish wrote:
SombreroFallout wrote:
In addition, in recent years in at least one few specific developers have felt comfortable pushing proposals that broke prevailing zoning codes, with encouragement from the city, and generally did everything they could to live up to stereotype, from threatening and deriding to pushing entirely unreasonable project concepts into neighborhoods totally built and designed for other land use categories


Are you talking about anything that actually got built? Just curious.


Sounds like Edgewater, and we don't know yet if that'll be built. The developer wants to make it sound like it's all on the city, but he's also got to round up private financing and of course he's not saying how well that's going.

Another example is the Sequoya Library development on Midvale, which did get built. It met huge neighborhood opposition, and is four stories tall (if I recall correctly) unlike anything else in the area. The library is nice, but the neighborhood right behind is nothing like it used to be and the homeowners there very strongly did not want this to happen. It's no higher than the east side ones I listed above, but this particular neighborhood hated it all the way and I don't count it as a successful integration into its context. Maybe someone who lives nearby will put in their opinion here and change my mind.

SombreroFallout wrote:
I don't think anybody believes that buildings above 4 stories are going to get approved there


Totally disagree. Whatever gets approved on East Wash will be taller than four stories. That is, as long as the developer doesn't pull another self-castration in the process of saddling the city with yet another half-baked starved-for-vision project that simultaneously shortchanging the site's highest and best use while leaving behind a less-than-fully-functional white elephant for someone else to clean up.

....

The city may get behind taller buildings west of the river but at Union Corners I think neighborhood opinion might win out. Once you go past 4 stories, building costs soar and unless you're getting campus rents, buildings at 5,6,7 stories are hard to pay for.


(I screwed up the quote boxes, but you can sort it out if you need to.)

Cieslewicz tried to "streamline" (ha) the permitting process and cut out neighborhood input, and that went over very badly. The neighborhoods want in -- they have to live with the results, including whatever happens to their property values. I think neighborhood organizations will remain strong under Soglin.

I think the half-baked starved-for-vision thing is right on. And I think the vision has to include what the neighborhood wants because now, with successful projects to use for examples, we know successful ones can be build. The good designers will come up with complex plans not stick to only one height on a big property like Union Corners.

At Union Corners, height might go taller than 4 stores on the E. Wash side because it isn't in anyone's back/side/front yard and the shadow pattern only falls on pavement. Back from the avenue, no. And green space will be required near the bike path where a few oak trees grow. A buffer between the tracks and the new buildings would be desirable anyway, and that's a natural one.

That's my call. I think nearly everybody can win if the designers are smart enough. Just packing 'em in like sardines might maximize use of the airspace but it's not the way to a plan that will succeed in the long run and I think banks are starting to realize that.

Also, having multiple designers, like they did on Alexander's project between W. Main and W. Wash, can't be counted out. That development ran headlong into the real estate bust and I think it was overbuilt, but design-wise it's not a disaster. I'm coming down to the idea breaking Union Corners into parts and starting with whichever one can get funded in today's environment is the way to go. It's got to fit into a flexible overall plan, but will happen piecemeal.
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Re: The future of Union Corners

Postby narcoleptish » Sat May 21, 2011 12:08 pm

snoqueen wrote: adding green space generates income by increasing the overall value of the property and its individual parts. It does, too. Who wouldn't prefer to live near a little pocket park, given a choice?


Something I totally agree with but haven't made clear in my posts. I also agree with Sno about how these large tracts might be better off developed in smaller parcels by different people. It would open up the bidding to many more potential developers. I think the Mautz property could be a great incubator type development, possibly using many of the existing buildings, if smaller parcels were made available. That one is still privately owned though and you can't blame them for wanting to dump it in one deal.

snoqueen wrote:
-- see the 600 block of E. Johnson for one that works, and has nice greenspace);


Stonehouse recieved public financing for that which unfortunately might be the only way to make it work in some instances.

I'm not against neighborhood input, I don't mean to sound like I am. I know a couple of developers and I hear their side and sometimes things get ridiculous like hours spent discussing brick color. They talk about how places like Sun Prairie are begging them to come there, promising a much easier process than madison. Some might say good riddance, but these are actually good people who are capable of building the kind of projects people want, there just has to be a little more flexibility from some people who don't often seem capable of it. And that would apply to both sides of course..
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Re: The future of Union Corners

Postby Maeve » Sat May 21, 2011 1:20 pm

I'm all for gradual infill at Union Corners and do agree with the green space/layout Sno calls for. If you build it, they will (gradually, organically) come. But I tend to disagree with the assessment of the Sequoya project on Midvale – when I lived nearby that was a dilapitated 50s shopping center surrounded by too much asphalt and next door to ugly apartments (still there). Bergmann's grocery, though unpleasant, was handy for a person who often didn't have a car, and I remember hauling my son's first birthday cake home from La Brioche on the stroller, along with the birthday boy. We also liked Buck's pizza. It had neighborhood conveniences, but was way underutilized.

Can't really complain about any library within walking distance, yet Sequoya was as outdated and visually unwelcoming as Hawthorne (despite its great staff) still is. The library alone revitalizes the Sequoya area; it has something for everyone. The condos are overkill now, yet Midvale Heights/Westmorland has many homeowners who are getting elderly and may want to relocate while still in the neighborhood they've lived in for 50 years. I'm all for having older people stay in their own homes as long as they can, but when I moved to the east side to apartments next to Olbrich it turned out to be a self-designated senior living center, made up of people who fit the bill of older people still vital who found themselves needing elevators, not stairs, no more yardwork, covered parking, in-unit laundry, who were suddenly sans spouses, and needing more social life (plus more people keeping an eye out for them).

Yes, Sequoya Commons met huge opposition and the fact that the neighborhood has an affluent demographic had something to do with that, I think. Condo dwellers = seedy people whereas they could afford (at the time, anyway) to be House Proud. At $190K for a one-bedroom, one-bath it should weed itself out, no? They already had not-so-good apartments in the immediate vicinity, plus homeowners who 30 years later still opposed bussing to Midvale Elementary, which drove house prices down east of Midvale. I'd say their toast landed butter-side up.

Had the shopping center been leveled, and had the city tried to use it to recycle pavement and asphalt – well, that would just never happen. The two can't be compared, except that there's a chance Sequoya Commons will maybe become fully-occupied and there's not a prayer that anybody will pay up to $300K at Union Corners to live across from the Red Letter News.

I'm in favor of an affordable senior living center with green space for Union Corners. The city might sponsor that, and I would way override Edgewater (if that were still possible) for such a project. One thing the seniors I coexisted with near Olbrich for four years always missed was gardening, and there's room for that at Union Corners – even greenhouses, yes please. The retail needs of senior citizens match up nicely with the rest of the neighborhood, like a convinence grocery (not meant to replace outlying cheaper mega-groceries, sad but true also needed). Walgreen's for meds and such, the library, and taverns -- why not? -- are already there. A decent restaurant could do well in this scenario, too.

It's a tough corner, though. Bad things have happened there. Maybe the city might take a more resourceful attitude towards making it better if our growing elderly population moved in. Also I think it'd be great to put in a green space/park that all generations could enjoy, because seniors and young families should not be isolated from each other. Everybody loved my then-little son at the apartments near Olbrich (he, as the solo kid, didn't like being in the spotlight that much – at all!).

When I'm a senior citizen I'll desire to be as independent as possible, I don't want little kids to be scared of me because they seldom see old people, I want to remain part of the community, and to walk to everything or to be able to easily take a bus downtown or out of town. That's what I want now and pretty much have. I'd hate to give it up when I'm truly old and to be stuck where people would have to go out of their way to see me, or me them. Better to be part of my own neighborhood where things are going on and to still be a part of it. I think Union Corners, allowed to evolve, could do just that.
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Re: The future of Union Corners

Postby MadMind75 » Tue May 24, 2011 7:13 pm

THIS JUST IN! Entertainment 7Twenty is expanding to include a location in Madison at Union Corners!
Union Corners will also be host to Wisconsin's first Snakehole Lounge!!!
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Re: The future of Union Corners

Postby Petro » Wed May 25, 2011 10:22 am

MadMind75 wrote:THIS JUST IN! Entertainment 7Twenty is expanding to include a location in Madison at Union Corners!
Union Corners will also be host to Wisconsin's first Snakehole Lounge!!!



*throws self under a Lexus*
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Re: The future of Union Corners

Postby TheBookPolice » Wed May 25, 2011 10:41 am

Hush, Mad. The grown-ups are talking.

As much as I'd like to see Union Corners turn into Craft Beer Central, I think the Fyfe's building/lot would be a much better fit for Ale Asylum. And that's the stretch of East Wash where the actual growth is happening, with Bop and Baldwin Street Grille and the like--not hypothetical growth.

Union Corners is going to have to incorporate something non-flashy and stable to provide an actual anchor for development. A retail anchor isn't going to cut it; I like the light manufacturing idea, if something good came along.
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Re: The future of Union Corners

Postby gargantua » Wed May 25, 2011 11:15 am

TheBookPolice wrote:Hush, Mad. The grown-ups are talking.

As much as I'd like to see Union Corners turn into Craft Beer Central, I think the Fyfe's building/lot would be a much better fit for Ale Asylum. And that's the stretch of East Wash where the actual growth is happening, with Bop and Baldwin Street Grille and the like--not hypothetical growth.


Now it sounds like Ale Asylum may indeed end up on E. Wash, a few blocks west and across the street from the Fyfe's location.
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Re: The future of Union Corners

Postby Bad Gradger » Wed May 25, 2011 11:40 am

gargantua wrote:Now it sounds like Ale Asylum may indeed end up on E. Wash, a few blocks west and across the street from the Fyfe's location.

I have to wonder how much money the Mullinses have lost driving Fyfe's out of the building. It's been vacant for what, two years now?
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Re: The future of Union Corners

Postby TheBookPolice » Wed May 25, 2011 12:01 pm

Bad Gradger wrote:I have to wonder how much money the Mullinses have lost driving Fyfe's out of the building. It's been vacant for what, two years now?

Nearing four, actually.
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Re: The future of Union Corners

Postby snoqueen » Wed May 25, 2011 4:47 pm

Their business practices are dark and murky. They repeatedly prefer to have property stand vacant than rent it and help another busines employ people and succeed. They'd rather have it vacant than maintain it, have the lights on and the heat running and cars in the parking lot so East Washington doesn't look like a haunted city. They've got more money than god and I suppose they're taking tax writeoffs on all these vacant buildings and lots, keeping their tax payments are the size of a poppyseed while they live in comfort on the lake in a big house and rake in the residential rental income.

I don't get the Mullins people, but I am repeatedly offended by their record as Madison property owners and citizens. Maybe the ghost of the Goodman brothers will come some night and shine a light in their windows.

Maybe there's some good reason for all this and I should be ashamed for ripping on them here, but they could do so much for this city they own a big chunk of, and they don't. Change my mind, Mullinses. Change my mind.
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Re: The future of Union Corners

Postby Dust Mite Rodeo » Wed May 25, 2011 5:15 pm

TheBookPolice wrote:light manufacturing


A Ray-O-Vac battery plant, along with a medium size grocery store, perhaps a Kohl's, would be a good fit.
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Re: The future of Union Corners

Postby TheBookPolice » Wed May 25, 2011 5:30 pm

Dust Mite Rodeo wrote:
TheBookPolice wrote:light manufacturing


A Ray-O-Vac battery plant, along with a medium size grocery store, perhaps a Kohl's, would be a good fit.

Don't think that didn't cross my mind. Maybe something that didn't look like a hovel--or wasn't one--would be more successful.
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Re: The future of Union Corners

Postby MadMind75 » Wed May 25, 2011 5:32 pm

TheBookPolice wrote:Hush, Mad. The grown-ups are talking.

And how 'bout you STFU you pretentious twat.
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Re: The future of Union Corners

Postby green union terrace chair » Thu May 26, 2011 2:36 am

snoqueen wrote:Their business practices are dark and murky. They repeatedly prefer to have property stand vacant than rent it and help another busines employ people and succeed. They'd rather have it vacant than maintain it, have the lights on and the heat running and cars in the parking lot so East Washington doesn't look like a haunted city. They've got more money than god and I suppose they're taking tax writeoffs on all these vacant buildings and lots, keeping their tax payments are the size of a poppyseed while they live in comfort on the lake in a big house and rake in the residential rental income.

I don't get the Mullins people, but I am repeatedly offended by their record as Madison property owners and citizens. Maybe the ghost of the Goodman brothers will come some night and shine a light in their windows.

Maybe there's some good reason for all this and I should be ashamed for ripping on them here, but they could do so much for this city they own a big chunk of, and they don't. Change my mind, Mullinses. Change my mind.

You know that vacant grassy area and parking lot inside the bend where W. Gorham turns into University? Did you know Mullins owns that and has had a 14-story apartment building approved years ago? They could still build it today, but it would have to be 100% identical to plan. If they changed one little bit, it would have to go back through all approval processes (and get shaved down to the current 12-story max height).
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Re: The future of Union Corners

Postby snoqueen » Thu May 26, 2011 7:48 am

And if I remember right, that's the lot that used to have a big, gigantic old elm tree on the street side. The building permit was written with a clause saying if Mullins harmed that elm during construction (and its branches reached clear to the back lot line -- it was just huge) he'd have to pay the immense sum of $5000. I suppose the council felt better passing that rule, but it wasn't worth the paper it was printed on.

Pa Mullins died several years ago, so the pronoun changes to "they" at this point. His sons run the company now.

The elm got elm disease a few years ago and had to be taken down. I still think of it every time I go around that bend on University. The Mullins are still sitting on that treeless triangular lot, same as their other properties all over town.

--

And another gone-but-not-forgotten: the Kohls grocery. Just after they tear these things down is when people start appreciating them. Those mid century Kohls are such architectural keepsakes today. The one on Monona Drive survives as a furniture store (and is kept looking nice) and I think the one on South Park is still standing -- I haven't been out there in a while. What other ones are left? The E. Wash one was the best because it still had those original, fun coral-and-turquoise panels in front, When those things were built people actually came to look at them and shop in them just for the coolness factor. Think of a bright coral 59 Chevy parked out front...

It would have made such a good sports and dance room for a neighborhood center.
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