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A neighborhood is born
From the Isthmus archives, Sept. 23, 1988
Todd McGrath
Todd McGrath
Credit:Morry Gash

"Five years ago, the First Settlement Neighborhood didn't even have a name," news editor Bill Lueders writes in a Madison Metro feature on the neighborhood's renaissance. Flanking the Capitol's southeast quadrant between Butler and Blair streets and East Washington and Wilson streets, First Settlement is being reinvigorated by a flurry of small-scale initiatives, he continues. "Old rental properties that were allowed to fall into disrepair are being snatched up by small investors and owner-occupants eager to make improvements," Lueders reports. Many are rehabilitating properties in a historically sensitive fashion. Meanwhile, a host of businesses have moved into the neighborhood, including Essen Haus, J. Kinney Florist, Criterium Cyclery and Porto Bananas. The neighborhood's resurgence has helped to displace seedier businesses such as the Mustang Lounge and Cheri's Massage. "This used to be considered the red-light district," observes developer and neighborhood resident Todd McGrath. Now, he adds, "people are together. You know the neighbors. Everyone feels that if someone improves a property, everyone benefits." McGrath and his firm, McGrath Associates, remain focused on Madison's isthmus 20 years later, with recent projects including the Capitol Point and Nolen Shore condominiums and Fourth Ward Lofts. Essen Haus perseveres. J. Kinney Florist has relocated to Monroe Street. Criterium and Porto Bananas have closed, but other restaurants and businesses in the neighborhood have multiplied.

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