Notes from the November 23rd Meeting

December 3, 2009

These are my (Erik Paulson) notes from the 200 E Mifflin Steering Committee meeting of November 23rd 2009. The guests were Bill Knobeloch, director of the City of Madison Parking Utility, and Tim Parks of the Planning Department. There were 16 committee members present, along with Alder Maniaci.

This post should be considered “draft” status for the time being. There are likely transcription errors, so please don’t quote anyone from this post without confirming with them first.

The meeting started off with Bill Knoebloch. Bill talked about how there are two different tracks of for these proposed developments, particularly the development on top of the parking ramp. The two tracks proceed somewhat independently, and the hope is that they’ll both meet up at the end. Bill talked about the parking side, and not the land use/development side.

The McCormick Ramp, or Capitol Square North ramp, was built in 1971, and built to high standards for the time. Per Bill: “Built it to robust standards, with vertical expansion capability”. It can currently hold 631 cars, and could add 3 or 4 more floors. Foundations and columns are built to withstand the extra load. It can handle some combination of more dynamic load (ie, adding more cars, or other things that move around) and static load (ie new apartments, things that won’t move around). Garage was built to the lateral load standards of 1971. (ie wind) Modern standards might need lateral load to be increased.

Of the 631 stalls, 150 are prox-cards controlled, that is, more long-term parkers with an electronic pass. 431 stalls are hourly. McCormick/CSN average occupancy of the hourly stalls is 68%, as measured at “Peak” times, which are 10am-2pm. That makes it middle occupancy. Lowest is 52% at Overture, Government East is the top, 85%. Don’t like to get above that 85%, full light goes on at 90%. Occupancy of McCormick, including monthly, is 79% at peak. Brayton Lot (the big lot at Butler and E Washington) is 98% at peak. Cap Square North has longest stay – 43% park at least 5 hours. This is the highest level of long-term parking in any of the city ramps.

Fees went up June 1, to increase revenue and to redistribute load a bit. (All ramps charge slightly different rates.) The goal was to shift some parkers to cap square north and Overture ramps. That worked somewhat, more went to Cap North, but it’s hard to get people to use the Overture ramp (it’s the cheapest of the ramps.)

Bill tries to project demand out for 10 years (after that, just not accurate). Try to anticipate shifts in demand, like possible ULI redevelopment on the square, and children’s museum move. Doesn’t really see demand increasing much in the next 10 year. Children’s museum will have 50-60 their own spots.

Demand is high enough that city wouldn’t sign long-term leases for some of the spots in the McCormick ramp for any development, without new parking.

The ramp is built with post-tension concrete floors. That means that in order to go too high, you’d have to go through the floor to add more columns, but to go through the floors requires that you completely rebuild the floors. You can’t drill a hole through any of the floors without replacing some of the very expensive post-tension cable system.

If there’s new parking above the existing ramp, it would be “Nested” parking – use the same card through the two gates. If they don’t get to their own gate within a few minutes, they’d pay the city for parking in the city’s stalls.

Engineering study – Bill just saw the Apex consultant’s version not too long ago, but the city does its own report every year anyway, so they didn’t learn anything new. Currently they jackhammer out rusting steel and recover it with concrete. Last year, had $93,000 in maintenance.

Bill doesn’t want to speculate on the lifetime of the ramp. Would prefer to have a professional engineer, with the insurance to back the PE up, to make that claim.

The current stairwells are not to code for having people live above the ramp. The stairwells aren’t load-bearing, so replacing them would be easier. A new development would add elevators, and the parking utility would be open to sharing the cost of the elevators if they can share the use of the elevators, but hasn’t asked Apex about it.
Every building that has people living above it must have a fire suppression system. Every parking ramp has had a fire in at some point. Apex (or any developer) would have to sprinkle the ramp as-is. Also may need to consider HVAC upgrades, to handle potential fumes from the ramp below.

About one developer a year comes to ask questions about this ramp, at least in Bill’s tenure. Bill speculates that most are scared off by the cost. But, as a city, we may want to have something there. Bill doesn’t see there being demand in the next 10 years to justify adding more parking.

Air rights: has experience, have already sold the air rights once to the CDA. The Parking Utility would want to do things before selling them, and then the Transit Commission could recommend selling them, with the Common Council approving.

First step: declare airrights surplus.
Second step: At developer’s expense, get a serious, specific, structural engineering study of the final design.
Third step: City would use its own engineer/consultants to review the design.

Jeff Sims: When was the last time Apex got in touch with you?
Bill: Three times. First was in July, with the previous big tower design that wasn’t structurally possible. Apex came back with some questions, last time was probably a few weeks ago. All visits informal.

Jeff: Once a year contacts on opportunities at ramp, can you elaborate?
Bill: Sometimes inquiries are just a phone call. Apex is the first that he’s seen that got as far as doing a structural analysis, and first that looked at lateral load.

Bill: First, chartered parking utility, take no money from taxpayers, raise it all from fees. Have to sell assets at fair market value. Last time they sold the air rights was $600,000. Would get an assessment, they’d get an assessment, and go from there. The parking utility would demand money in cash, no interest in a land swap.

Marilyn Martin: concerned about precedence on building above the three corners of the square. Doesn’t want to bury the Capitol.
Bill: Most other ramps aren’t built enough to go higher. Govt East isn’t an option right now right now. Only Cap Square North/McCormick and Overture Ramp have vertical expansion capability.

Margaret Fountain: How many more floors could CSN/McCormick ramp take?
Bill: depends on the load type. Cars/ramp are dynamic weight. Apartments are static weight. Exact configuration will depend on their construction type, and how heavy the apartments are. (Mostly, a materials question.)

Bill: in the 1971 thinking, they put the additional expansion capability because they thought the demand for parking would grow faster than it did.

Ruth Shelly: If the building was constructed on top of the ramp, would the ramp have to close during construction?
Bill: If they necessitate closure, the utility would charge them for whatever spaces are not available, so it’s in Apex’s interest to minimize closure. Last year, that ramp did $774,000 in revenue, so if the closed the entire thing, that’s the scale they’re talking.

Bill: There’s been interest in the past to “rent out” an entire building during an event (like an MSO concert), but the Parking Utility hasn’t been keen on this idea.

Jason Tish: Do you require the structural analysis of everyone?
Bill: Wouldn’t tell anyone anything about the capability of the building, would recommend they get their own engineer.

Gary Tipler: Are you already planning to replace the stairwells?
Bill: Yes, sort-of. Already have contracts with a company to replace the doors and windows. But not doing that for Apex, had already started that process long before Apex approached them.

Gary: Elevators, any Apex interest?
Bill: Hasn’t asked them yet, but expected that they would be. No current plan to build an elevator. Overture Ramp has a cutout in the post-tension floors if they ever wanted to add another elevator.

Chris Atkinson: When would Govt East be redone?
Bill: Govt East built in 1958, to much different standards. Consultants have said on govt east there’s 1.2 million worth of work that needs to be done. New ramp would be underground, from back of Madison Municipal Building to the wall of Great Dane, cutting underground of Pinckney. Huge footprint, saves lots of space because they don’t need to turn corners nearly as often.
Alder Bridget Maniaci: Govt East could happen within 2 years. Marcus Corp has first refusal. That expires in two years. Needs to overlap new ramp with govt east, so it will be constructed in phases. (ie build new ramp, open new ramp, tear down Govt East, build rest of new ramp.) Phasing should limit demand increases elsewhere.

Tim Parks: He’s a Planner with the City, charged with reviewing new developments. Currently, the Apex proposal is very abstract. Apex is at 40k feet design, would not get into specifics until they get down to 5000 feet. Tim is on the land-use track. This is a very interesting site, as a transition point between square and low density residential. In the downtown core area of the forthcoming downtown plan, but very close to the JMPD, which may wind up being the existing character and lower density in potential recommendations. The plan has to deal with the fact that the ramp is there, and doesn’t look like other things in JMPD.

Marilyn: There is a great deal of demand of parking in the downtown. Capitol Point residents can watch the lines waiting to get in, will only get worse with children’s museum. She has a second comment – with current “green” thinking, wouldn’t it be lovely to have a roof garden that could double as parks?
Tim: Park space in the downtown is, and has historically been, lacking. On the exteriors of the downtown only, like Brittingham and James Madison Park. Otherwise, really only Lisa Link. Adding more land is very expensive, especially if we had to assemble park piece by piece. To build above the parking ramp, there’d be additional engineering effort, especially if we had to go for urban cultivation. In order to just put a green roof on the McCormick, we’d still have to sprinkle the lower levels/put in ADA upgrades, even if no one lived there.

Jeff: In the downtown plan, is the JMPD is going to call for higher density?
Tim: No, likely will have west of Webster will go higher, east will be lower density. The McCormick ramp is an exception, will be sort of a sawtooth.
Bridget: sense is that the occupancy in JMPD will remain roughly the same, though occasionally projects will increase or decrease on small area.
Tim: JMPD might be poised to take on the character of Basset, where small infill redevelopment. Doesn’t think things like Bedford court, where 12 buildings were demolished, but smaller things.

Carol: How long ago was Butler plaza? Is it in character with the neighborhood now?
Tim: 1997? Would preface it by saying he started in 2004. E Wash is a different animal, even though the plan starts at Blair. Butler Plaza is an example of an attempt to bring the density of the square towards the rest of the corridor.

Carol Toussaint: Can you talk about the opposite side of the street? (ie, the development next to the Lamp House)
Tim: Even more at 38K foot view. Will have a number of significant steps to have it happen, lots of questions about the building mass, and the obvious question of the Lamp House. Landmarks will be involved.
Carol: Can we landmark the parking ramp? Kenton Peters designed it.

Anne Stoelting: Where/when does Traffic Engineering get involved?
Bill: When they know for sure what the use will be, with the number of units and the number of stalls, then TE will get involved with what happens on the street. But we’re way early for that discussion.

Bridget: Apex is looking at something out in D19, (Mark Clear’s district, west side of town) Maybe something in D6, too (Marsha Rummel’s district, Marquette/Atwood). Bridget is asking other council members what they may be shopping around.

Bill Gates: So, Apex has done something with an engineering study, where do we think they’re at?
Bill: This was sort of a prelim study, probably better for doing it before they brought anything forward, just due diligence.
Bridget: they’re at sufficiently high level that Apex is at least a year out.
Tim: Depends on which side of the street, a few months away before City Planning Staff starts reviewing. Focus primarily in ramp, but will flip to other side of the street. Currently, ramp is zoned C2, General Commercial activity. In fact, all of the 100 block of N Webster and N butler is zoned C2. It would be perhaps a bit of a surprise to the 1966 zoners that the houses are still there. F.loor A.rea R.atio is 3, ie land area times F.A.R. is how many square feet you can build. But that doesn’t include parking, so ramp wouldn’t count, conceivable that you could do so without requiring a rezoning. (Erik’s note: is residential permitted in C2?) Even if they don’t rezone, they’d almost certainly have to get a conditional use. Would have to notify alder and Neighborhood association 30 days before filing. Because it’s a public building, would go to UDC, too. (Erik’s note: I have in my notes, “South side of the street, almost certainly would require a rezoning”, which seems inconsistent with what I just wrote) Across the street, would need landmarks, a demolition permit, which would require a 60 day notice before filing of “interested parties” in addition to alder and NA, because it involves pre-1940 buildings.
Bridget: Cannot even ask for anything without that 60 day notice. Have done that for the hotel, haven’t done it for Lamp House, but obviously could file a notice do that tomorrow (about 150 people are on the notice list)

Tim: It’s important that committee is meeting right now, when/if something does happen, would like neighborhood to be able to speak on whatever consensus we can come up. If there’s something we can find that we can tell city decision-making bodies the minimum of what passes the “smell test”, that would be helpful. Hopes an outcome of tonight’s meeting is a sense of what is possible. Neighbors need to know what the city is thinking, what the developers are thinking, what the rest of the neighbors are thinking.

Carol: doesn’t have a good sense what JMPD is thinking. Steering Committee hasn’t seen their draft plan.
Jim Steakley: The short version, 2-pager is coming soon. Doesn’t directly address the Apex proposals. This committee might be a good place to have both JMPD and Mansion Hill have a say. If he had to summarize where we’re coming to, there are number of hurdles for the Lamp House, and a desire to see something on the ramp.
Tim: Well, maybe “fewer hurdles” on the ramp. For example, more shade on the Butler if we build the ramp. However, anything in comparison to building next to a FLW house would have less scrutiny.

Marilyn: Why JMPD has initiated this process, why can’t we work together to build something that enhances the entire city?
Erik Paulson: This committee is in response to a couple of proposals that Apex brought forward, not a solicitation.
Bridget: For the neighborhood plan, the big push was to get something into the Downtown Plan

Carol: If the neighborhood document emphasizes the importance of preserving the E Mifflin side, what does that say on the parking ramp?
Jim: The draft that we’re aiming for says high rise developments should go on E Wash

Carol: When we say “The City” we mean the taxpayers. What does that mean for the parking utility?
Bill: Parking utility paid for the land, built the structure, issues its own bonds. But, would imagine that the city would step in if the parking utility defaulted.

Carol: Was reaching the point where she was asking “why am I coming to this”
Marilyn: question about the background of the process and CNI

Gary Tipler: How about Transfer of Development Rights? We’ve mentioned it as a potential application on the Mifflin block.
Tim: Only local example he can think of is out in Cottage Grove. But doesn’t have enough experience
Erik: Apex has talked about using TDR on Mifflin, in lieu of air rights
Tim: Parking utility isn’t interested in land swap, difficulty in valuing the development rights. 12 people would come to 12 different answers. Lamp House complicates value of development rights. Will check with Brad Murphy to followup with Urban TDR.

Chris: Quick fact checks – 79% occupancy?
Bill: Monthly parking with hourly is what you’d use.
Chris: If they were 85% and not 79%, would you consider it surplus?
Bill: No, because they’re building more parking. 79% is only at peak 10am-2pm weekdays.

Ruth Shelly, from Children’s Mueseum: 9-5 operating, 10-5 peak. 50 spots, open parking at city ramps, don’t provide staff with parking. Doesn’t know how many people will use the parking – a heavy day is 500 people/day, expect that they won’t meet demand with the on-site ramp. Will be 24/hr meters, may use some of it as a fundraiser (ie, during Concerts on the Square). Will be “Pay Per Space”. Really value having on-site parking. Thanks for coming tonight. Their building is also designed for extra load on top of the existing building, elected to use the top of the their building as a greenspace instead of the extra 4 stories they could put there.

Bill Gates: Could we invite JMPD come next time to talk about their draft plan? We’ve been sort of going around in circles and would benefit from getting the neighbor perspective.
Bridget: It’s a good idea for more people to see the draft
Jeff: Maybe we could take a look at this draft, think about it for a few weeks, and reconvene

Gary: Would like to have more info about TDR. This steering committee could be a leader in applying TDR in Madison.

At that point, we’d reached about 9pm, and we adjourned for the night. Our next meeting is December 7th, 2009.