Urban Design Commission discusses downtown Madison’s future

Madison’s Urban Design Commission discussed a new downtown design proposal this Wednesday, adding to the conversation about the future of State Street.

The meeting opened with a presentation by Bill Fruhling, the principal planner of a Downtown Plan subset, the Comprehensive Plan. The new plan is intended to be a specific design for the State Street and Capitol area geared toward a sustainable future.

Fruhling recognized the need for a careful balance between retail, bars, restaurants and businesses on State Street, something that Mayor Paul Soglin’s office has recently been monitoring. Fruhling said market research will be conducted to fully understand the area’s trends.

“I think what’s going on, in the downtown in particular, is really changing some of the dynamic of this area,” Fruhling said.

Soglin’s administration has spent the term working to reduce alcohol density in Madison, especially on State Street. Soglin’s representatives have appeared before the Alcohol License Review Committee with the common mission of keeping State Street commercially diverse.

UDC debated the merits of a comprehensive remodeling plan of the downtown area. Several committee members expressed concern about the wide scope of the project, fearing that it will not accomplish its goals.

The group noted previous one-year plans that turned into four-year projects and have failed to accomplish all of the original tasks. However, the Downtown Plan organizers said the geographic region is small and that the plan is in its beginning stages, underscoring the importance of its “comprehensive” nature.

Because planning is still in the early stages, the organizers said they would like input from diverse groups, starting with municipal committees. UDC is one of few that have heard from Fruhling so far.

“Because [State Street] is adjacent to campus, and there are so many students in this area and so many new housing units that are being built are student oriented, we’re going to be really looking for a lot of student participation as … we go through this process,” Fruhling said.

The Downtown Plan’s Comprehensive Plan is set to be written in the next couple of months, according to Fruhling.

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