October 12th meeting recap

On October 12th, 2009, the 200 E Mifflin Steering Committee met to discuss and react to the previous two meetings and presentations from Apex regarding development ideas. There were just about a baker’s dozen neighbors present. This meeting took place without representatives from Apex. Our discussion focused mostly on visioning and process.

The significant new information we learned at this meeting was how far discussions had progressed with the city regarding “air rights” to the parking ramp. (We’ve been using “air rights” as a generic term to describe the right to build on top of the parking ramp.) The update (via a Capitol Point neighbor) came from Bill Knobeloch director of the Madison Parking Utility. No one from Apex has approached him regarding developments on the ramp, though Alder Maniaci gave Knobeloch a heads up early in the process. There is history for this sort of transfer – in 1996 the city sold the rights to the Madison CDA (Community Development Authority) to build on top of the ramp. The CDA never moved forward with the project, and eventually the city repurchased the rights. (And by “purchased”, we mean bought and sold for $1, so it’s not an accurate valuation of the rights). The Parking Utility could not identify a standing policy of how exactly these rights would be sold again in the future.  Additionally, the parking utility will require additional engineering studies before they were satisfied that any development could occur above the ramp.

Although our discussion was wide-ranging, there were three themes that dominated the discussion. The first was the condition and future of the existing homes on the south side of Mifflin, including the Lamp House.  There certainly was interest in seeing the Lamp House enhanced and preserved. We are interested in getting a detailed condition report on the existing houses, as well as exploring other options for those houses. We also know that Kitty Rankin, the recently retired Preservation Planner for the city, had files with more information on these homes and we’re going to track that information down.

The second theme revolved around neighborhood planning, and city processes. In particular, we committed ourselves to producing something tangible from this process to inform future developments, even if in the end Apex doesn’t move forward with either proposal. We discussed neighborhood plans, conversation districts, the downtown plan, and the comprehensive plan, and their relations to one another. We resolved to bring someone in from the planning department to speak to us specifically about the approval process that these projects will need to go through.

Finally, and closely related to the second theme, we discussed the wants and dreams of the neighborhood. That discussion will feed into other meetings, and I won’t try and list them all here. In the end, after the neighborhood has said what we want, we left ourselves open to the possibility that the developers will decide that they’re not the right developers for this spot.

For the next meeting, we agreed to focus primarily on preparing for a follow-up meeting with Apex. We have agreed to put together a package of feedback, comments, and questions that we have regarding the proposals we have seen thus far. For questions, we have decided that we will look for both new questions, along with questions that have been previously raised but that we don’t yet feel we have full answers for, with the caveat that some questions may just not yet have answers. We’ll get those to Apex, and hopefully have a meeting with Apex in early November.


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