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Langdon Local Historic District

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Re: Langdon Local Historic District

Postby Zoti Bemba » Tue Mar 12, 2013 7:12 pm

ArturoBandini wrote:The choice to maximize economic utility or not should be made by the owners of the particular property under consideration.

Thank you. I was trying to point out that maximizing economic utility is a choice, not a foregone conclusion, and that there are a variety of owners in the neighborhood who might fall somewhere on the scale other than the farthest profit maximizing extreme.
If you are not the owner of said property, what authority do you have to determine the economic fate of the property?

I believe that is the question being debated.
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Re: Langdon Local Historic District

Postby ArturoBandini » Tue Mar 12, 2013 7:25 pm

Zoti Bemba wrote:
If you are not the owner of said property, what authority do you have to determine the economic fate of the property?
I believe that is the question being debated.
If you claim that the answer to the question is anything other than "none", then you've turned the concept of property rights on its head.

Imagine the converse situation - what if your plans (ostensibly, to remain in your Langdon street home) were permitted to be threatened by people who own no part of your home or property? They have other plans for your property, and they petition the government to force you to play along as they enact their plans. (OK, this situation already happens, it's called eminent domain). How is this different than what you're trying to do to the property owners who want to sell their properties to developers?
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Re: Langdon Local Historic District

Postby Ducatista » Tue Mar 12, 2013 7:33 pm

snoqueen wrote:Now various forces are trying to catch Langdon up to what's happening over on Johnson with La Ciel et al.

And who are these dark La Cielist forces out to destroy Langdon?

Maybe they're the same people who'd like to see the entire isthmus built up to the statutory max. Wait, no... that was my plan, according to you. Except that it wasn't. Not even close.

The Iota court proposal/pushback/revision/acceptance process worked well, IMO. Of course the outcome is unacceptable to everyone who'll lose lake access or lake view or driveway. (I'm sympathetic—that's gotta suck.) But it's not a stake in the heart of the magical historic fairyland we call Langdon.

Strident anti-development hyperbole is no more conducive to smart growth than is fuck-everything-but-the-bottom-line greed.
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Re: Langdon Local Historic District

Postby jjoyce » Tue Mar 12, 2013 7:40 pm

Zoti Bemba wrote:I don't get why you would be offended


Let's be very clear, I was not offended. It takes a lot more than that for me to be offended.

I was pointing out how ridiculous it is to be taking personal and anonymous shots at somebody. Like you were doing. You know, acting all boorish and jerk-like, yet somehow also attempting to remain righteous at the same time.

Anonymously.
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Re: Langdon Local Historic District

Postby snoqueen » Tue Mar 12, 2013 7:46 pm

Duca:
You'd be the perfect forum writer to set forth a description of how you'd like the area to turn out in ten or twenty years, if you have the time.

I said it before: we have a pretty detailed picture of what the keep-it-somewhat-like-it-is-now folks would like. What about the let's-change-it advocates? You say the process has worked well in this instance, and I agree to a degree. Everybody gave a little, which I suppose is better than one side getting the whole cake and the other side none at all. But if you could rewrite the neighborhood plan what would you put in it?

I think "whatever the process yields" is a fair answer, by the way.

The only thing that's been clearly articulated is Artie's belief nobody but the property owner should have anything to say about what happens to a property. This is pretty much the Texas version. Since we do have zoning laws in much of the rest of the country, I'll assume they continue to operate. (After all, property owners sometimes deliberately choose properties precisely because zoning laws limit what the neighbors will be able to do.) What other ideas are out here?

I'm serious with this request. Maybe we'll find more common ground than it appears.

---

I don't get where Zoti Bemba was taking personal shots at anybody in a manner worse than the rest of us have been doing.
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Re: Langdon Local Historic District

Postby ArturoBandini » Tue Mar 12, 2013 8:06 pm

snoqueen wrote:What other ideas are out here?
I'm imagining a system of contracts that operates something like a "neighborhood insurance" that allows neighbors to place liens on their neighbors in exchange for explicitly defined payments. Basically, you pay your neighbor the marginal amount it would cost to prevent him/her from selling his or her property to a development project that you don't agree to. Similar clauses could apply to the maintenance of the property, upkeep, etc. If the owner of that property decides to sell anyway (which is their right, as the owner), you are paid the amount of the lien upon the completion of the sale. The contract wouldn't have to be triggered by all types of ownership transfers - maybe it would be acceptable to sell a single-family home to another single-family dweller, with the lien left intact.

This sort of system would allow neighbors to place some value chips on neighboring properties without having to take direct ownership of them. It would also make it much cheaper (via the collection of neighborhood rents in exchange for liens) for the owners of properties that are highly desirable to the community, thus making it more economically attractive to forgo selling them to a developer. Properties with lesser desirability to the community would not benefit from this marginal income stream, and would therefore be the first to be bought and developed.

One tricky part - the liens would need to apply for some period of time that extends into the future, maybe 5-10 years or so. Otherwise, one could collect the rents up until time to sell, at which point they would cancel the contracts and make the sale. I would think that there would be a large upfront cost for the initial 5 year lien, with additional monthly payments being made in installments that would roll the lien expiration forward by one month, such that there is always a 5 year horizon. Practically, the time periods and payment schemes could be left up to the contract parties.

Really any system that assigns dollar values to the intangible "neighborhood values" we're talking about would be a big improvement. Any comments or criticisms are welcome.
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Re: Langdon Local Historic District

Postby snoqueen » Tue Mar 12, 2013 8:15 pm

What about people without money who still have a stake in what happens? I'm thinking of co op members as an example, but including others as well.
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Re: Langdon Local Historic District

Postby Ducatista » Tue Mar 12, 2013 8:27 pm

snoqueen wrote:Duca: You'd be the perfect forum writer to set forth a description of how you'd like the area to turn out in ten or twenty years, if you have the time.
...
I'm serious with this request. Maybe we'll find more common ground than it appears.

You’ve asked me before to explain my approach, and thanked me for my apparently forgettable reply.

Forgettable and long, so I won't burden this thread. My original post and a followup are here and here, if you'd like to revisit.
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Re: Langdon Local Historic District

Postby ArturoBandini » Tue Mar 12, 2013 8:38 pm

snoqueen wrote:What about people without money who still have a stake in what happens? I'm thinking of co op members as an example, but including others as well.
Co op members don't have money? Who are we talking about here?

Keep in mind, people with no money who happen to live in places considered merely worthy of preservation by the community will find it much cheaper to live in these places, because there will be a steady stream of neighborhood rent payments coming into their co-op.

Anyway, people with only small amounts of money could still participate in the process. If their wishes are not respected (and their co-op is demolished, for instance), they won't have the co-op anymore, but they'll have more money because of the lien payment that happens upon the sale. And there's nothing preventing sympathetic outsiders from purchasing lien contracts either.

Here's another scenario: What if a group of Chinese investors really wanted to preserve Langdon Street in a state of frozen development circa 2013? They could simply buy up a huge amount of lien contracts and make it economically ridiculous for Langdon property owners to consider any changes to their neighborhood (because they'll be getting rich by letting things stay the same).

One could also structure the lien payments as "Neighborhood Vetos". You would basically be selling your neighbors the right to object to whatever changes you're making to your property. If you want to add a balloon addition, you'll have to either get the approval of your lienholders, or pay them off with the amount you originally agreed to.

Sample contract terms (amounts are just made up, markets would find an equilibrium on payment amounts on both ends):
I pay $50 upfront for a $1000 lien against an adorable historic home in my area. The lien is active for 5 years. The owner of that home (who agrees to this whole thing) takes the $50. Each year I pay an additional $10 to rollover the lien for an additional year. The owner will collect that money, as well as any similar payments from neighbors who feel the same way I do. If a developer comes in with a hefty offer, wanting to demolish the house, each of the lienholders gets to decide to approve or disapprove of the project. They can't actually stop the project, just economically influence the outcome. If 100 neighbors all hold $1000 liens against the property, then the sale price is potentially inflated by $100k, from the perspective of the developer. However, if the development is regarded as positive by the community, they wouldn't all call in their contracts (although the lien would still be active for the duration of the original contract). The developer could even offer to buy out skeptical but not vehemently opposed lienholders for a reduced amount proportional to their skepticism (e.g. 40% on the dollar).

All of this could be done while completely respecting freedom of contract and property rights. It could also be integrated into existing development and zoning frameworks, although those may become less necessary as time goes on.

Wow, I really like thought experiments.
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Re: Langdon Local Historic District

Postby Lucy Mathiak » Wed Mar 13, 2013 7:16 am

Don't let the naysayers get you down. The buildings that are over 4 stories in the area were built before the local, state, and national historic preservation laws were passed. The buildings that are over 4 stories have a lot to do with why historic preservation is necessary. They are out of scale and architecturally out of sync with the surrounding neighborhood, and it shows.

Many of the Langdon Street buildings were designed by significant architects. They may appear to be run down, but that does not mean that they should be torn down. Often such buildings are allowed to deteriorate so that a developer can claim they can't be saved as prelude to demolition and construction of the large eyesore that they envision for that site. It's called demolition by neglect, and is a practice that is tolerated too often in Madison.

And slapping a few 'historic'-appearing architectural details on a new building does not make it historical or historically appropriate design. It just makes it a new building with some details slapped on it to appease the critics.

Hope the petition gets many signatures before the rest of Langdon Street follows the sad precedent that is being set with the destruction of the West wing of Memorial Union.
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Re: Langdon Local Historic District

Postby Stebben84 » Wed Mar 13, 2013 8:56 am

Lucy Mathiak wrote:The buildings that are over 4 stories in the area were built before the local, state, and national historic preservation laws were passed.


Such as one of the buildings being torn down which is 5 stories.

Lucy Mathiak wrote:Many of the Langdon Street buildings were designed by significant architects.


I am wondering who the significant architects are who built the buildings being torn down. Stu, any insight?

Lucy Mathiak wrote:And slapping a few 'historic'-appearing architectural details on a new building does not make it historical or historically appropriate design.


Why do we need to make new buildings look historically appropriate for a neighborhood. I've never understood the idea that we can't have old and new mixed.

Lucy Mathiak wrote:follows the sad precedent that is being set with the destruction of the West wing of Memorial Union.


The design team is working closely with the Wisconsin State Historical Society to ensure we preserve the integrity of the building while improving its overall relevance, excitement and vibrancy.


http://unionreinvestment.wisc.edu/?page_id=2

I don't believe they are destroying anything that is historically significant. That west wing was a crappy add on to the building and they're bringing it up to date if I am not mistaken.
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Re: Langdon Local Historic District

Postby snoqueen » Wed Mar 13, 2013 9:28 am

Ducatista wrote:You’ve asked me before to explain my approach, and thanked me for my apparently forgettable reply.

Forgettable and long, so I won't burden this thread. My original post and a followup are here and here, if you'd like to revisit.


OK, if that's it then that's it. I guess I was hoping for something specific like "no more than 50% of the buildings in one block may be higher than eight stories" or "buildings on the lakeshore may only block lake views from the lowest three stories of the buildings behind them," but you cite your link as your statement and there we have it.
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Re: Langdon Local Historic District

Postby Stebben84 » Wed Mar 13, 2013 9:36 am

snoqueen wrote: I guess I was hoping for something specific like "no more than 50% of the buildings in one block may be higher than eight stories" or "buildings on the lakeshore may only block lake views from the lowest three stories of the buildings behind them," but you cite your link as your statement and there we have it.


So then what is your proposal or thoughts on that street? You say Duca is not getting specific, but I have heard nothing specific from any of the "Langdon is doomed" crowd, except don't build anything new. That's not a realistic argument.
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Re: Langdon Local Historic District

Postby snoqueen » Wed Mar 13, 2013 10:07 am

Stebben84 wrote:
http://unionreinvestment.wisc.edu/?page_id=2

I don't believe they are destroying anything that is historically significant. That west wing was a crappy add on to the building and they're bringing it up to date if I am not mistaken.


Now here's where we get down to the irreducible questions of personal esthetics and tastes.

From my point of view that 1939 west wing is as significant and as enjoyable as the original Memorial Union. (I'm less crazy about the mid-50s east wing with the dining area.) The Union Theater has some of the best acoustics you can find, fine sightlines, is liked by not only audiences but performers, and exemplifies the curves of prewar "modern" architectural style. I think it is well worth the money being spent to restore it, and I hope the result is a cleanup and fixup of the original, not destructive. Maybe I don't know what's going on within, though I believe the craft shop is no more.

--

What are my thoughts on Langdon Street? Good lord, I thought I'd put everybody to sleep repeating them. Maybe I have. (I always want to apologize after I write these long things, but people can skip what they don't want to read.)

I think new buildings should conform with the heights of older buildings around them. That's the overall notion. Apparently we need more specifics:

I think the lake views from existing buildings between Langdon and the lake should be protected, so I would like to see stepped development up that hillside. This means shorter buildings near the lakeshore and taller ones behind. Buildings could have spaces between (lot line setbacks) so those behind could have a lake vista, or we could write off lake views from the first, say, three floors and protect views above that point.

Similarly, shadow studies can be done to determine whether a new building will place one of its neighbors in shade most of the year. Setbacks from the lot line and a stepped building design can allow neighbors to receive natural light, which adds property value for esthetic and energy reasons.

Both view and shadow considerations are part of the planning process now so I am not requesting anything unusual.

I think a very specific survey is needed with 3-D modeling of what is now present. Then we could define an appropriate height almost lot-by-lot, or at least block by block to account for the way the hill rises toward the 10 block. The technology exists and we ought to use it.

That's why I can't just state a flat "four stories and that's all" rule.

Detailed modeling and a stepped plan protects the property value of those with properties off the shore, where lake views can be totally blocked by oversize development at the waterline. In other words, I want to spread the property values around not concentrate them right at the edge. I think the overall total property value of the area would be enhanced in this way.

The south side of Langdon could be part of this view-protection plan, or just have a height limit. In that case the height limit needs to be way lower than that concrete thing on the corner of Gilman. Let's go with 5-6 stories because different code restrictions kick in above 6 stories for safety reasons. I wish it could be 4 stories but there's no way that wouldn't be shot down.

I don't think everything old has to be "saved." We could walk down Langdon and agree on a number of buildings that are worn out and never had much appeal to start with. We can replace those with something better.

I would like the neighborhood to weigh on on whether it's acceptable to agglomerate individual lots into bigger groups, tear down everything on them, and build one new building with a far larger footprint. If we want to restrict height for various reasons, what about restricting horizontal area? The new Henry-Iota Ct building is an example. Maybe when it's built we can tell whether the scale is way wrong or not.

I like a mix of styles. I've said before I think the Hillel facility on Langdon is one of the best new buildings in the city.

Enough.
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Re: Langdon Local Historic District

Postby Stu Levitan » Wed Mar 13, 2013 11:00 am

If the Landmarks Commission proceeds with consideration of proposal to create Langdon Area Historic District, there will be extensive public hearings to explore all these questions.

BTW - no comments on our unanimous approval of the conversion of Holy Redeemer School to apartments?
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