A conceptual illustration of the redevelopment potential at West Washington Ave. and Bedford St. under a new Madison downtown plan.
The city is putting the final touches on the new Downtown Plan, which could be officially unveiled in a month or two.
On Wednesday, the Plan Commission will have its second work session (PDF) on the plan at 5:30 p.m. in the Madison Municipal Building, giving feedback to the planning staff, which will then compile a draft plan, for public comment, says city planner Bill Fruhling.
One part of the plan that is likely to have the most heated debate is over the West Mifflin Street area, an iconic neighborhood of old houses that have been carved into student housing and is the site of the spring Mifflin Street Block Party, a pre-finals keg bash.
The Planning Department is considering different ideas, including one that would allow the houses to be razed and replaced with four- to six-story loft style buildings, creating a transition from the University to downtown.
Figuring out what to do with this part of town won't be easy, says Ald. Lauren Cnare. "It has an historic value that people are attached to, but drive by slowly or walk, and it's pretty dilapidated."
Other, less controversial ideas are being considered, including a plan to bury John Nolan Drive.
Overall, a goal of the plan is to try to resolve the conflict between a need for higher density developments downtown with a desire to preserve some of what's already there, he says. "Hopefully the plan will add some predictability," he says. "What the plan is really trying to do is balance preservation and conservation with growth opportunities."
Fruhling says the plan will get some teeth from the zoning code, which is also being rewritten. "I think we will be able to implement a lot of the land use, height scale mapping in this plan into the zoning code."
After the planning staff gets recommendations from the Plan Commission, Fruhling says the staff will put together a draft document and "roll out these recommendations at a big, large-scale public meeting" in one or two months.
Once the plan is written, how closely will it actually get followed? Cnare says a new state law requires municipalities to follow their comprehensive plans -- or go through the process of amending them.
"What we put in that plan, we are legally bound to follow," she says. "I don't know what the big stick is with the state law, but I think we will stick to it. I think we're aware of plans and how they're important."
Draft documents of the plan, along with renderings, can be viewed here (PDF).