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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DOA Hubris Apparent After Refusing to Hold Public Meeting Over Demolition

State agency says online FAQ sufficient vehicle for communicating with neighborhood over project


The demolition of the State of Wisconsin’s now closed Central Services Facility along the Yahara River to make way for a new State archives building is proceeding despite deep community concerns over that process and a lack of communication from the Department of Administration (DOA), which is in charge of the project.

The DOA had been holding community members and state legislators at arms length all summer over concerns about harmful chemicals and materials at the 100 year-old industrial site and what might be released during the demolition.

Despite a productive meeting two weeks ago between the DOA and area legislators Senator Fred Risser and Representative Chris Taylor, the State is refusing to hold a community meeting to answer resident’s questions about the project. Instead, DOA posted an FAQ on it’s website, claiming it provides sufficient information and thus precludes the need for a public meeting.

“It’s too bad they are not taking the community’s input into account, no one is saying to shut the project down, but we want to make sure this project is safe and that this project doesn’t endanger our environment and our public health, ” Taylor told Willy Street blog.  “And they’re just not giving the community an opportunity to hear from the project manager and the contractor that they are doing a lot of things right.

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The Best Fair in Years

Weather part of great music booking and mix of vendors and events

The sun and clear skies were two of the stars of the 2015 Willy Street Fair.

The sun and clear skies were two of the stars of the 2015 Willy Street Fair.

Every Willy Street Fair seems like the best, but this one felt extra special. After monsoonal rains pelted southern Wisconsin right up until the early morning hours of Saturday the sky was flawless for the next forty hours.

The weather brought out the crowds and fair organizers Common Wealth Development and Wil-Mar Center presented a smartly programmed event with each music stage featuring great acts without an overloaded schedule.

After high energy world music all afternoon on the Main Stage Saturday, the partnership with the Madison World Music Festival paid off with the Ester Rada, the day’s final performance. Her soaring vocals and funky backing band delighted the crowd which filled Plan B’s parking lot.

At the same time, magic was happening on Brearly Street as Colombian EDM duo Mitu made their Midwestern Debut with style providing transfixing beats that had the crowd pulsating to their music featuring mixers and live percussion.

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Environmental Safeguards Seriously Lacking in Central Services Demolition Plan

DOA meets with lawmakers after quiet bidding process and unresponsiveness

The former Central Services Facility is being demolished for a new State archives preservation and storage building. Residents are concerned the demolition will spread toxins that exist from 100 years of industrial activity on the site.

The former Central Services Facility is being demolished for a new State archives preservation and storage building. Residents are concerned the demolition spread toxins that exist from 100 years of industrial activity on the site.

Marquette neighborhood residents are alarmed about the impending demolition of a state storage building at 202 South Thornton Avenue, the former State of Wisconsin Central Services Facility. The 100 year-old building served as a foundry, munitions plant, manufactured appliances, housed a printing press and served as a service facility for the state’s vehicle fleet.

Neighbors, environmental groups and now local, state and federal legislative officials are concerned the Department of Administration’s (DOA) current Environmental Assessment (EA) far underestimates exactly what types and the amounts of toxins such as PCBs, PCEs, PAHs and other heavy metals remain on the site or have seeped into the ground. There is further worry that the State’s plan to contain those contaminates during demolition is woefully inadequate.

In it’s place, a four-story $46.7 Million state of the art archive preservation and storage facility will be constructed on the site along the Yahara River, for the Wisconsin State Historical Society and Veterans Museum.

The project, approved in 2013, will include greenspace and Native American ceremonial grounds which are planned for the Yahara frontage. In the future, more expansion could happen to land not in the building’s footprint on the Dickinson Street side which for now will be landscaped.

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East High football home games return to Breese Stevens Field after 41 year hiatus

Scrimmage25On a pleasant Saturday evening earlier this month the Madison East High School football team was warming up on the gleaming year-old artificial turf of Breese Stevens Field. It was a first look not only for the players, but the coaches, boosters and fans as East has not had it’s own home field since it played it’s last home game in 1974.

For Quarterback Ruben Arndt, the lines on the field and the dimensions may be the same from last year when East played at Lussier Stadium, but this year will be different because the Purgolders are coming home when they host Madison West, the last team they played in this stadium 41 years ago.

“It’s really special to be back here…for the school. I remember as a kid I’d always go to Lussier [stadium] and watch my brother. It was always fun seeing the team but it never really felt like home…because we were out in front of Lafollette.” Arndt said during a break from drills.

“This really feels like home, right here a couple blocks from the high school and it’s old, it’s dusty and it’s great.”

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Demolition By Neglect

Alder Rummel employs defensive strategy to retain Landmarks control over new project after developer appeals earlier demo denial to full Common Council

A four-story mixed-use building is proposed for this site currently occupied by a single family home.

After being spared several times, the Landmarks Commission has approved it’s demolition. However, the building that is proposed to replace it has not yet been approved.

Just weeks after the house at 906 Williamson appeared to have it’s Lazarus moment, it appears now it will likely be demolished. Last night (July 6) the Landmarks Commission approved the demolition after District Six Alder Marsha Rummel, who serves on Landmarks, requested reconsideration after the Commission denied permission last month.

The Commission voted 3-2 with Chairman Stu Levitan breaking a tie vote along with Rummel Commissioner Jason Fowler. Developer Louis Fortis is seeking to demolish the 1900s era house and build a four story mixed-use building.

According to an email to constituents on the MNA Listserv, Rummel acted at last night’s meeting after the developers indicated they were going to appeal the June 15 denial by Landmarks to the full City Council.

“If the appeal went to the Council, the Council could have overturned the denial of the Certificate of Appropriateness and approved the proposed new construction as presented. The Council would look at the record and the ordinance but the appeal language grants them latitude to consider other factors. I was also concerned about the message to developers if the Council upheld the appeal,” Rummel wrote.

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Drug Raid on Jenifer Street Brings Out Police Toys

Madison Police SWAT team deployed to 900 block Tuesday afternoon

A Madison Police Assault vehicle takes a position in front of 909 Jenifer Street which was the target of a drug raid, June 16, 2015.

A Madison Police Assault vehicle takes a position in front of 909 Jenifer Street which was the target of a drug raid, June 16, 2015.

Madison Police executed a search warrant in the 900 block of Jenifer Street yesterday (June 16) just after 12:30 p.m. as part of a investigation into drug activity. Traffic was blocked off for the entire block while members of the Madison Police SWAT team moved in.

Neighbors reported seeing a large military-style vehicle painted in black with Madison Police markings park in front of the home and a public address speaker on the vehicle told the occupants that they [the police] were aware they had guns. Kendall G. Ragland, 36, was arrested  during a high risk traffic stop on south Carroll Street and charged with four felonies and one misdemeanor in relation to the investigation.

Madison Police Department says that the raid was the result of a seven month investigation which recovered more than 32 grams of heroin and more than 14 grams of cocaine as well as other evidence but so far there is no information that weapons were found; however the investigation is ongoing.

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Madison Metro Bleeps-out Beeps

City bus administrators relent to public pressure regarding noisy turn signals

No more beeps when Madison Metro bus turn signals are on.

No more beeps when Madison Metro bus turn signals are on.

Madison Metro gave a heads-up to alders today in an email on a decision to turn off the audible turn signals that have been driving neighborhood residents crazy throughout the city, especially in quiet areas late at night.

Metro had installed the system on it’s buses to increase awareness as the bus was pulling in and out of stops to reduce the chance of collisions. The decision to add the system was partly in response to a fatality several year ago when a turning bus struck a pedestrian on University Avenue.

Allison Smith, who lives near the Edgewater in the Mansion Hill neighborhood and on the #81 bus line started noticing the beeping in January. The #81 has a schedule that runs until 2:20 a.m. on weekdays and 3:20 a.m. on weekends and after living through two years of Edgewater construction she started to research the impacts of noise on health.

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Landmarks Denies Demolition Permit for 906 Willy

Preservation versus exceptional new design at the crux of the vote

The Landmarks Commission meeting on June 15, 2015. (clockwise) Commissioners David McClean, Erica Fox Gehrig, Micheal Rosenblum, Commission Staff, Chairman Stuart Levitan, Randy Bruce, Knothe-Bruce Architects, Commissioners Christina Slattery and Marsha Rummel.

The Landmarks Commission meeting on June 15, 2015. (clockwise) Commissioners David McClean, Erica Fox Gehrig and Micheal Rosenblum, Commission Staff, Chairman Stuart Levitan, Randy Bruce of Knothe-Bruce Architects, Commissioners Christina Slattery and Marsha Rummel.

The status of a new development at 906 Williamson Street is in doubt after the Landmarks Commission voted 4 to 1 today (June 15) to deny a demolition permit to remove a 114 year-old four-bedroom home that is currently on the site.

The original project was proposed late last year by developer Louis Fortis and has gone through an evolution as both the neighborhood via the Marquette Neighborhood Association and Landmarks have weighed-in. Knothe-Bruce Architects has been shepherding the project and has made many adjustments based on neighborhood input.

However much of the staunch resistance has been from Landmarks itself which signaled it’s opposition to allowing demolition of the home when Knoth-Bruce made an informational presentation at the commission’s April meeting.

The neighborhood has shown a fair amount of opposition as well, arguing the home, while not a notable landmark, contributes to the historic character of the Third Lake Historic District. The development has had it’s supporters as well, contending that this particular home is beyond saving and would require repairs that might approach it’s current value. Additionally, many felt that it was only one of two single-family homes remaining on a block that is almost entirely commercial.

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Buraka Unveils Plans for Façade, Patio

MNA P&D to consider Buraka and Gib’s Bar request for outdoor seating

Plan for the exterior to the new Buraka, which will occupy 1210 Williamson.

Plan for the exterior to the new Buraka, which will occupy 1210 Williamson.

The Marquette Neighborhood Association Preservation & Development Committee meets Tuesday (June 9) to consider and vote on two requests for outdoor seating and one alcohol license. Maron Ragassa, owner of the much-hailed Buraka (1210 Williamson), has revealed drawings for the upgraded front of the building and rear deck and is seeking neighborhood support.

The concrete block building, which was constructed in 1966, has housed such venerated businesses as the Willy Bear and the just departed Jolly Bob’s, but is mostly architecturally unremarkable. This should win easy clearance from the Landmarks Commission; their staff report says Ragassa will have to modify the planned exterior insulation and siding as well as provide more detail about how the rear deck will relate to the building.

Plans submitted to Landmarks shows a layout very similar to Jolly Bob’s with seating for 40 and additional 17 at bar stools. Another eight could be seated outside. Inside capacity is shown at 74 with District Six Alder Marsha Rummel reporting a total capacity of 119. Buraka will be applying to the Alcohol Licensing Review Committee for a Class B combo liquor license with 30 percent alcohol to 65 percent food ratio.  Continue reading