This year, Madison will begin looking at ways to improve the "Triangle neighborhood" and Brittingham Park on the near west side, and looking for a way to extend the campus mall all the way to Lake Monona.
"Right now, the East Campus Mall stops at Regent Street," says Ald. Sue Ellingson, who represents the area. "It would be a really cool thing to have a connection from Lake Monona to Mendota, through campus."
The planning process is being made possible with a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, through its "Greening America's Capitals" program. The grant is for planning expertise, not money. The EPA will hire an architectural design firm that will come to Madison and offer advice for the neighborhood, which is bordered by Regent Street, Park Street and West Washington Avenue. (This triangle was part of the historic Greenbush neighborhood, and is now known as Bayview.)
Bill Fruhling, a city planner, says Madison has applied for the grant each year, and although it hadn't won until now, it "kept getting great feedback on our application."
City officials identified several initiatives they'd like to work on in the process. But in general, the idea is to "promote a complete streets approach to streets," Fruhling says, explaining that means "dealing just as effectively with bikes and heads as cars."
Perhaps the most exciting is an idea to extend the campus mall to Lake Monona. "That concept right now is nothing more than a line on a map," says Fruhling. But if you look at the area on Google Maps, you'll see it's possible to extend Campus Mall as a public walkway all the way to West Washington Avenue without hitting any buildings.
Other ideas for the planning project are to find ways to improve the West Washington Avenue pedestrian crossing by Brittingham Park. There's already a pedestrian bridge, but not many people use it.
"People will take their chances and cross West Wash instead of going over the pedestrian crosswalk," Fruhling says. "If that's what people are going to do, why not design a crossing that will accommodate the way people are going to use it?"
Ellingson says the goal is to get "people who live in the Triangle to cross the street and use the park."
The project will also look at improving the busy intersection of West Washington, Regent and Proudfit streets. "The Regent Street intersection is really big and wide," Fruhling says. "The buildings that are there are pulled back, making it feel even more big and wide open. So cars move through there like it's big and wide open."
These elements are just starting points for neighborhood discussion, Fruhling says. The EPA has yet to hire a consultant for the project, but once selected, the firm would come to Madison and hold a series of design charettes, most likely this summer, with residents and officials. Fruhling anticipates the consultant would have recommendations about eight months later.
The grant doesn't include any money for funding improvements, but Fruhling says the consultant will also look for ways to pay for its suggestions.
Says Fruhling: "One of the things to come out of this is a detailed funding plan, a report on funding opportunities."