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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906 Willy Developers May Have to Preserve Home to Win MNA and Landmarks Support

Second public meeting set for today as project bumps against neighborhood plan, historic ordinances

Developer Louis Fortis is seeking to build a four-story mixed-used building at the corner of Paterson and Willy Streets. Courtesy: Knothe-Bruce Architects

Developer Louis Fortis is seeking to build a four-story mixed-used building at the corner of Paterson and Willy Streets. Courtesy: Knothe-Bruce Architects

Another proposed mixed-used development at 906 Williamson Street is facing some opposition from the neighborhood and the City Of Madison Landmarks Commission over it’s height, low percentage of affordable housing, green space and demolition of a 4-bedroom single family home currently on the site.

Earlier this year Louis Fortis, who owns the Gateway Mall, proposed to demolish the current home and build a four-story mixed used building with 26 apartment units, underground parking, retail space on the first floor along Willy, indoor and outdoor bike parking, rooftop patio and green roof.

In the interim, Knoth-Bruce Architects has been working with Marquette Neighborhood Association to earn it’s endorsement since they feel it will be very helpful in their petition before Landmarks which says the design is okay, with somewhat minor changes, but they are leery about approving the demolition. MNA wants to see a shorter building, more affordable housing and the current home preserved.

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Is #WillyStreet ‘A Place For All People’?

Police shooting highlights shortcomings in our progressive culture


Tony Robinson, in a picture released by his family the night of his death.

Friday was the day we all realized that our neighborhood, which over the decades has changed for good in many ways, really hasn’t changed at all. Sitting with family and friends for dinner at Take Five, we saw an urgent parade of police vehicles pass by, seven in all.

It is normal to see ambulances and fire trucks on this important artery through the Near East Side. But this was different; we knew a serious situation was occuring when so many police are the first to rush by.

A regular patron headed down the street to investigate and reported back that shots had been fired in the 1100 block of Williamson Street. His information was rushed and proved accurate on only two points: that someone had been shot and that he saw CPR being peformed on an individual before an ambulance took him away.

I say “him” because it was Tony Robinson who was killed during a scuffle with a Madison Police officer. His eventual death has displayed in very stark terms this city’s continued struggle with race, police deadly force protocol and access by our minority communities to Madison’s perennial “Best Place to Live” status.

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Four-Story Building Proposed at Willy and Paterson Streets

Twenty-six multi-family units will top commercial space and underground parking

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

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

A developer tied to the property currently occupied by Plan B nightclub is proposing a redevelopment of 906 Williamson Street upon which currently resides a single-family home owned my Petinary proprietor Micheal Kohn.

Louis Fortis, owner of the Gateway Mall at west end of Willy, wants to demolish the current structure and replace it with a four-story mixed-use building with 5000 square feet of ground level commercial space and 26 multi-family units on the three floors above. Underground parking would hold 21 spaces for cars.

District Six Alder Marsha Rummel is holding a neighborhood meeting on Thursday February 5, 2015 at 7 p.m. at Wil-Mar Center to discuss the proposal. Rummel said in an email to the Marquette Neighborhood Association listserv that the developer has not submitted an application to the City of Madison until they receive neighborhood input. She says Architect Randy Bruce is designing the building.

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One-third of Jenifer Trees to be Replaced in Reconstruction Zone

Forestry to replace some, but not all, with shorter, power line-friendly trees

Jeni7The glorious leafy canopy that arches majestically over Jenifer Street is unlikely to return after a large street reconstruction this year. A city-wide policy of replacing trees with a species that will top-out below power lines will likely have a huge impact on the character and aesthetic of the neighborhood.

The City of Madison Forestry Division will remove approximately one-third of the trees along Jenifer between Spaight and Few Streets, mostly in an effort to protect against the Emerald Ash Borer.

“There is no way to reproduce the amount of canopy that will be lost, many of the ash preemptive removals are located under high voltage power lines,” Madison Parks Community Services Manager Dawn Grosdidier wrote in an email to Willy Street Blog. For these sites we will be replanting smaller, power line compatible tree species which is our standard practice across the city.”

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Dramatic Changes Coming to Jenifer Street

Project to narrow roadway, eliminate bus stops, but could damage historic homes

The 800 block (foreground) thru the 1100 block will be entirely rebuilt beginning this spring.

The 800 block (foreground) through the 1100 block of Jenifer Street will be entirely rebuilt beginning this spring. Jenifer’s notable tree canopy could be significantly degraded by the project as well.

The City of Madison hopes to begin a large reconstruction of several blocks of Jenifer and adjoining streets this spring that will impact both residents and transients that use the street daily during and after the project is completed.

The sweeping project will narrow Jenifer from Spaight to Few Street, install bump-outs to facilitate easier pedestrian crossings, move two Madison Metro bus stops and eliminate six others. Sections of Paterson Street and Brearly will also be rebuilt and portions of Few Street will be resurfaced.

While neighborhood leaders are encouraged by the traffic calming aspects of the project, there are concerns about the changes to the bus stops, the loss of tree canopy and for owners of historic homes, possible damage from construction vibrations.

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Fire Closes Plan B, Possibly Until New Years

Electrical fire causes no injuries, but $10,000 in damage

Fire_12232014_CWAn electrical fire broke out inside Plan B nightclub Tuesday morning (December 23) around 10:15 a.m. causing $10,000 damage and closed Williamson Street for approximately 30 minutes as Madison Fire Department crews from Fire Station #3 responded to the incident.

Two cleaning women discovered the fire when they entered the building, but initially thought it was smoke from a fog machine since it was located near the dance floor. Concrete contractors working next door on the Madison Sourdough expansion noticed smoke coming through the shared wall and responded with fire extinguishers after the smoke intensified blunting most of the fire’s advance according to MFD Spokeswoman Bernadette Galvez.

“The cause is a electrical fire…the exact source hasn’t been pinpointed,” Galvez said. “If those guys [the concrete workers] didn’t noticed that, that fire would have taken off.”

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Grampa’s Hopes Eager Pizza Patrons Will Fund Elegant Waiting Room Next Door

$50K kickstarter sought to fund rehabilitation and conversion of 1380 Williamson

1380 Williamson Street is slowly evolving into Gib's, a swanky waiting area for the space-challenged Grampa's Pizzeria next door.

1380 Williamson Street is slowly evolving into Gib’s, a swanky waiting area for the space-challenged Grampa’s Pizzeria next door.

Not even a year after Grampa’s Pizzeria opened they had a problem, a very good problem. Most nights, especially the weekends, there was nary a table to be had. The approximately 45 seat restaurant serves a staple of four to five well thought-out pizza offerings along with inventive sides that change with the seasons or the creative whims of Co-Owner and Executive Chef Gilbert Altschul.

The small location also has its cozy charm but very little space for patrons who are waiting to be seated. Earlier this year Altschul partnered with notable cocktail creator Hastings Cameron and Grampa’s bar manager Josh Swentzel to open Imaginary Bar next door at 1380 Williamson Street to provide a loungey “waiting room” experience for diners.

As the project moved forward the restoration work became quite extensive and pricey causing Altschul to buyout Swentzel and Cameron. The two-story bar has been renamed Gib’s Bar but will retain much of the original intent, however Altschul is energized by the new project including culinary inspiration from such things as salmon in a cone.

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Willy Street Co-op Celebrates 40 Years With Documentary

Grocer sponsoring double-feature focusing on it’s history and U.S. food co-ops

The First Forty is a short (six-minute) video about how Willy Street Co-op grew from six volunteers opening a small grocery store in 1974 to the cornerstone of a vibrant community. Interviews from farmers, community partners, Co-op Board members and staff illustrate forty years of cooperation.
Food For Change is a feature-length documentary film focusing on food co-ops as a force for dynamic social and economic change in American culture. The movie tells the story of the cooperative movement in the U.S. through interviews, rare archival footage, and commentary by the filmmaker and social historians. More information about it is available at
Wednesday, October 22
Barrymore Theater
7pm (doors open at 6pm)
Thursday, October 30
Middleton Performing Arts Center
7pm (doors open at 6:30pm)