Isthmus growth continues; closing plans shortsighted

Development on the isthmus continues, according to two two stories in the news today, making the prospect of closing central-city schools rather shortsighted.
From a longer story by Mike Ivey in The Capital Times:

E. Dayton Apartments: In other action Monday night, a plan from developer Scott Lewis and architect John Sutton for a five-story, 48-unit apartment building at 22 E. Dayton St. was referred to the May 7 meeting of the commission.
A plan for the site was approved in August 2006 that included razing a former church building wing for expansion of the First United Methodist Church on East Johnson Street. Those plans also called for moving a seven-unit apartment building from 18 E. Dayton to 208 N. Pinckney St. and demolishing a two-family home at 24 E. Dayton — all to allow construction of the 48-unit apartment building.
The new apartment building would feature 47 underground parking spaces and a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom units.

From a story by Barry Adams in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Marling Lumber Co. will move from the 1800 block of East Washington Avenue near the Yahara River and has put the 3.8-acre property up for sale. Officials with the 103-year-old company, which has been at the location since 1920, say the move to T. Wall Properties’ The Center for Industry & Commerce along Highway 51 will provide room for growth.
The sale will also likely mean new life for the East Washington Avenue site and help create a gateway to the central city.
“That’s a very critical site especially when you factor in Fiore Plaza across the street,” said Steve Steinhoff, Dane County’s community development coordinator. “The two of those redevelopment projects together really have the potential to redefine that area.”

I previously wrote that growth on the city’s outskirts will likely slow as the world runs short of petroleum products and gasoline prices climb beyond where they’ve ever been before

5 thoughts on “Isthmus growth continues; closing plans shortsighted”

  1. But Ed when we looked at the data, very few students from middle to high income apartments or condos actually have children that attend school in MMSD. If they have children they usually move into a home prior to school age. Not sure it will account for much increase in the area.

  2. Depending on the mix of housing and the cost of living in the suburbs, the conventional wisdom of no kids may give way to a new reality. (Housing sales were down again in March.) We can’t really know, of course, but it would be unwise to bet that these developments won’t have school-age children, close schools, and then be wrong.

  3. Ed:
    I think your arguments for keeping relatively small (under 300 students or so) schools open is stronger when you focus on educational benefits, rather than long-term economic trends that may or may not play out. There is good research out there regarding the size of schools at all grade levels, and the impact on educational quality.
    Why would growth in the suburbs slow based on the price of gas? That presumes people in the suburbs need gas to get to their jobs. Aren’t jobs in massive quantities (like, Epic) moving to the suburbs?

  4. Good thoughts, Phil.
    However, the MMSD made assumptions about suburban growth when the board approved construction of the new west side school, so long-term projections must be figured into long-term capital projects. By closing schools, the MMSD assumes little or no growth of the population of school-aged children in the isthmus neighborhoods — an assumption that could easily be as wrong as assuming continued growth of surburbs.
    Gas prices will fall hard on the suburbs, where people don’t commute just to work. They have to get in a car to do anything — shop, bank, go to the doctor, go to a movie, go to school. People live miles from anything other than similar houses.
    Additionally, some analysts predict that the U.S. will not be able to meet much more than half of its demand for natural gas in 10 years. Heating the larger suburban homes will not be cheap.
    I don’t see many Epic-sized employers on the edges of Madison. And it would be informative to know how far employees commute to Epic. From what I’ve seen of Epic’s location, people aren’t going to walk to work at Epic.
    For more on the pending shortage of gasoline and resulting high prices, see:
    James Howard Kunstler laces the unsustainable suburbs in his books. You can visit his Web site at:
    You could search for “End of Suburbia” in your favorite video store to get a fuller view on the burbs.

  5. Ed:
    Thanks for the links.
    I think there are lots of employers on the fringes of Madison — American Family and Alliant both took large chunks of their isthmus/central city employment out to the far east side, closer to Sun Prairie HS than any Madison high school. Gialamas’ enormous business parks out on the far west side employ lots of folks in non-service industries like banking, insurance, high-tech offshots of the UW, and the like. Even the university research park is in what might be accurately described as a suburban setting, insofar as it’s a hike from downtown. What keeps downtown Madison thriving (and it is, relative to most cities its size around the country) are the two large elephants — UW-Madison and state government. It’s still the employment center for the area, and thus will serve as a justification for folks to live within an easy commute/bus ride/bike ride/walk to work. But lots and lots of folks (many with kids) have moved to the suburbs in the past two decades — in part, I’d argue, because that’s where the jobs are. What’s the fastest-growing school district in the county? Sun Prairie. Think it has anything to do with AmFam’s decisions to build their park on the doorstep of Sun Prairie’s school boundaries? I do.
    As for Epic, I’m absolutely positive that folks in the Verona and Mount Horeb school districts (you can get from the Mount Horeb 18/151 exit to the Epic exit in about five minutes…) are gearing up for long-term building plans in the wake of Epic being fully built out.

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