Willy Street May Become a ‘Bus-ling’ Corridor

Alder wants Metro to study making temporary route permanent

Will the old pavement not be the only thing gone from Jenifer after reconstruction is finished?

Will the old pavement not be the only thing gone from Jenifer Street after reconstruction is finished?

Any traveler on Willy Street, be it by foot, bicycle or horseless carriage, knows it just takes more time to negotiate the heavily utilized thoroughfare; choked with traffic that barely makes it to the posted speed limit except during rush hours.

Conversely, the traffic flows much more freely on Jenifer Street,  a street that once held trolley cars. Now devoid of stop signs for six blocks, it is a veritable expressway that holds bicycles, buses and transient cars that try to escape Willy and their own speed control.

Traffic on Jenifer is too darn fast, it has always been over the last four decades of my own existence living on or nearby. But the reconstruction is bringing about a rare opportunity to test a thought neighbors have been having for years: Moving the bus routes to Williamson.

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Like a Phoenix — 1018 Williamson

What’s happening with that abandoned house on Willy Street?

Brandon Cook purchased 1018 Willamson after the home was given a reprieve from demolition if a buyer could be found. Photo by: Gary Tipler

Brandon Cook purchased 1018 Willamson after the home was given a reprieve from demolition if a buyer could be found. Photo by: Gary Tipler

Many of us have noted the recent changes to the formerly abandoned 1890s house at 1018 Williamson. It’s the doings of Brandon Cook who has an unmitigated enthusiasm for renovating old buildings.

Most people would wonder, why did 1018 Williamson appeal to Brandon – a building that had been both gutted and derelict for about 24 years? The house had “good bones” but needed someone committed to renovating it.

“When I first looked inside, I thought, this could be great. What a fantastic opportunity to redo everything. What needed to be done was very clear. And I could put it back together to the best of my ability. I had an accepted offer within an hour,” Cook said. “Everything about this project is a labor of love. How can I make the best installations?”

Brandon closed on the property in 1018 Williamson in March, 2015, and began planning the renovation. He and his architect Doug Pahl of Aro Eberle put together a plan for two, two-story apartments — a second floor flat with the attic and the ground floor coupled with a finished basement. It included a rear addition as most houses in the neighborhood historically have them.

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Warning of a Treepocalypse

Jenifer residents hopeful some trees can still be saved

Will the Jenifer Street tree canopy survive reconstruction and a short-sighted City tree policy?

Will the Jenifer Street tree canopy survive reconstruction and a short-sighted City tree policy?

City of Madison forestry crews have begun to trim trees on Jenifer street ahead of a four block reconstruction project that will last most of the year. Forty two trees are slated for removal. Many are being removed because they are being ravaged by the Emerald Ash Borer or may be at risk.

In the face of the loss of legacy trees comes pushback from residents over the City’s policy on replacing those trees with a species that grows no taller than the base of the power lines. Lifelong residents and newer arrivals are fighting like mad as the idyllic beauty of the street is being threatened by a functional policy that takes a tactical rather than strategic view.

A silent protest arose on the 800 and 900 block of Jenifer recently as signs affixed to many of the condemned trees sought to remind residents of the coming of a possible treepocalypse.

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Adjusting Focus

Willy Street Blog is confronted by geography

The Willy Street Blog may be zooming out, but will always keep 'the street' in the frame.

The Willy Street Blog may be zooming out, but will always keep ‘the street’ in the frame.

In about two weeks the Willy Street Blog will celebrate four years of chronicling Near East Side life. It hasn’t been the definitive voice of the neighborhood as I, the only writer on staff, have focused on ubran development, impacts of city projects in the neighborhood and our glorious leisure businesses and community events.

For the Willy Street area that is a lot to cover and I have focused on what I felt was quite interesting and consequential to our neighborhood and honestly, what I have had time for. Lately I have not had much time for anything and that is what this post is about.

I was born and formatively influenced in this neighborhood. For the last forty-plus years I have on and off lived within it’s “mom always wants you to visit” embrace. It has been my permanent home and the identity I have represented to others throughout my whole life.

Seeing the Williamson-Marquette neighborhood evolve into the most enviable place to live, and for many just be; is ratification of the efforts of my elders and their progeny. We never stopped loving this place when the rest of the city, at times, smirked and chortled.

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Chances Dwindling To Influence Jenifer Street Reconstruction

Neighborhood seeks to change scope of construction with recommendations

Jeni10The Marquette Neighborhood Association (MNA) will consider tonight (7:00 p.m.) several proposals deal with the impact of the Jenifer Street Reconstruction project that will begin this summer. The MNA Traffic Committee met Monday and debated a range of issues, some related to the construction, others regarding the legacy the construction will leave behind.

During construction, bus service will have to be rerouted. Currently as many as four routes traverse Jenifer Street and Madison Metro’s latest proposal has the bus routes moved to East Washington Avenue. The general sentiment has been that this solution is easiest for Metro and rather inconvenient for neighborhood residents who utilize this service heavily.

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Saving Trees From the Ground Up

Proposal would allow higher tree heights on terraces currently limited by powerlines


The Guyot house (right) has had this power pedestal outside their home since they undergrounded their power lateral in the late 1970s. MNA is considering a proposal to underground the primary power lines to maintain the high tree canopy which is threatened by MG&E’s tree planting policy.

The once-delayed major reconstruction or a four block stretch of Jenifer Street is moving forward again but residents are still working to blunt the impact of what may be stark changes to the look and function of the street.

The most recent initiative from neighbors is to advocate for the undergrounding of the primary power lines to help maintain the current tree canopy. The fabled canopy is under a dual threat from forced removal of trees due to the Emerald Ash Borer and any replacement trees being of a species that grows no higher than below the current power lines.

The Marquette Neighborhood Association Board (MNA) will vote this week via email to forward a recommendation to the City of Madison to include partial undergrounding of the primary power lines to help preserve the tree canopy. The initiative grew out of a series of meetings on the Jenifer reconstruction that have been held in the past months by MNA.

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PCBs Still Present Along Bike Path Next to Kipp

Environmental and Safety Coordinator Alina Satkoski notified Atwood area residents today (January 4) that the last excavation of soils did not remove all of the PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyl) that were found  last year along the Capital City Trail bike Path between Madison-Kipp and the Goodman Center.

Satkoski wrote that a second excavation will occur this week and continue through the next to remove more soil in a plan she says was approved by the City of Madison and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The bike path will remain open during the excavation.

Neighbors have kept a close eye on Kipp due to several ongoing issues from historical contamination of area soils from the industrial business operations over the decades. In the past the company has had to excavate topsoil from several properties that abut the plant due to contamination.

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The Fires of Renewal

Winter Solstice celebration at Olbrich only missing pretty snow cover

The twice annual Solstice bonfire at Olbrich Park. This celebrated the Winter Solsice. December 22, 2015.

The Winter Solstice bonfire, part of a twice annual Solstice celebration held at Olbrich Park on December 22, 2015.

The Solstice is one of the more accessible and life affirming holidays celebrated in Madison and it occurs twice a year! Centered around the astronomical cycles of the sun and the earth, the Solstice is a recognition and reaffirmation of our connection to Mother Earth.

The history of the Solstice reminds us that it is not a single deity or a collection of them that truly drives our existence; it is the natural rhythms of the earth that shaped humanity over time. This recognition is very popular in Madison with many Solstice celebrations held around the city.

Our northern city endures the ravages of winter and the tradition of a bonfire is attractive to our residents as, like in pre-Christian times, it signifies the return of heat and light from the sun after it has spent six months retreating from us.

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Joint Neighborhood Advisory Committee Formed to Press City and Developer on Marling Site

MNA & SASYNA want a say as developer submits formal plans to City

A view of the mixed-used development proposed for the Marling site at 1801 E. Washington Avenue.

A view of the mixed-used development proposed for the Marling site at 1801 E. Washington Avenue.

Talk of redeveloping the Marling Lumber site has existed for over a year, but has found new momentum after a public meeting in September where developers, Campbell Capital Group, LLC., presented their plan to redevelop the site featuring a largely residential mixed-use development.

Late last month Campbell Capital submitted their plan to the City of Madison to build a 230 unit apartment complex with 20,000 square feet of commercial space, mostly on East Washington Avenue. In a Letter of Intent to the City, CCG Founder Micheal J. Campbell proposed the two to four story interconnected buildings would blend in with the neighborhood by presenting welcoming features both along East Washington and the Yahara River.

“A public plaza along the Yahara River connects and integrates the Project and its residents with the surrounding neighborhood. This sense of community, and interaction at the street level, is further enhanced by the exterior entrances to some of the residential units along East Main Street,” Campbell wrote.

One hundred and fifty of the 230 units will be 1-bedroom, 78 are 2-bed, and three will be 3-bed with the average square footage of each unit adding up to 811 square feet. There  will also be three courtyards, an outdoor pool, interior structured parking with 334 spaces and 265 spaces for bicycles.

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Making the Marquette Neighborhood Better Than You Found It

If you like it here, this is how you can/should help: JOIN MNA

The MNA Board during a meeting in March 2014.

The MNA Board during a meeting in March 2014.

The Marquette Neighborhood Association (MNA) has always been a very active organization but the need for motivated members and leaders is a constant. Our neighborhood, located in the heart of the state capital, is host to many constituencies and their agendas can have stark impacts.

For example, the effects of the demolition of a long-standing industrial building have yet to be fully enumerated and the neighborhood is still trying to get answers from the state.

Additionally, the neighborhood is grappling with development and how to interpret the detailed neighborhood planning that was undertaken only a few years ago. Wounds are still fresh from the shooting of Tony Robinson and the response to a brutal sexual assault on the bike path is just beginning.

The MNA was also instrumental in thwarting an ill-conceived reconstruction of Jenifer Street that would have permanently changed the look and feel of this idyllic yet key transportation artery minor.

If you live here it’s likely that you love the festivals, which are the top four neighborhood events in the city. Our streets, homes and parks makes for destination living. But it took four decades of effort to make it this way and keep it so.

Your neighborhood needs to hear from you through words and engagement.

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