These Kids Are All Right

East High cultural series hopes to encourage more involvement by neighborhood

The Accidentals play Cargo Coffee on March 21, 2014.

The Accidentals play Cargo Coffee on March 21, 2014.

Jazz music wafting through a coffee shop on a Friday evening is not uncommon, nor impressive unless you were at Cargo Coffee Friday night (March 21). A spoken word performance usually garners an echoey smattering of applause, and maybe a spirited “Woo!” from a patron, but not this night.

It could have been their ages, but more likely it was the polished, inspired, and passionate performances of Madison East High Students that brought enthusiastic applause from supporters and customers during a fundraiser to help make healthy snacks available to students at East.

Hungry students is not just an East high problem but is leading some to raise a larger question: Are Near East Side neighborhoods too detached from East High students? Friday’s event at Cargo Coffee shows there is much young talent to appreciate and support.

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Commercial Development on Willy May Dominate MNA Board Meeting

Developments at each end of street highlight contrasting neighborhood priorities

1380 Williamson Street is currently vacant, but 16 Bar Spoons wants to turn the residence into a craft cocktail lounge

1380 Williamson Street is currently vacant, but 16 Bar Spoons wants to turn the residence into a craft cocktail lounge

While every Marquette Neighborhood Association Board meeting is important, tonight’s (March 20) meeting may further illuminate the difference in preferences for development on Williamson Street. With the neighborhood already at loggerheads over too much residential development at 722 and now 706 Williamson; a proposal to convert an existing residence into a craft cocktail lounge did not earn MNA’s  Preservation & Development Committee recommendation at Wednesday’s meeting.

Josh Swentzel (Star Liquor, Grampa’s Pizzeria, Tip Top Tavern), Hastings Cameron (Forequarter, Underground Food Collective) and Gilbert Altschul (Grampa’s Pizzeria, Mickey’s Tavern) have formed 16 Bar Spoons, LLC. to lease the property at 1380 Williamson which is currently owed by Ben Altschul (Gilbert’s brother) and which Swentzel says is currently vacant. The yet to be named lounge divided the committee since the location would turn a two-unit residence into a commercial establishment.

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Articulating Compromise As Clock Ticks

722 developers adjust proposal but neighborhood reaction is still mixed

A revised depiction of 722 Williamson with five stories on Williamson, and seven and nine-story towers at the rear. Courtesy: BDG

A revised depiction of 722 Williamson with five stories on Williamson, and seven and nine-story towers at the rear. Courtesy: BDG

Baldwin Development Group (BDG) is determined to build a mixed-use development at 722 Williamson that will honor the Marquette neighborhood planning guidelines and also serve their own commercial interests. However, after Wednesday’s (October 23) meeting with the neighborhood where they presented alternate designs, the way forward is becoming murkier and time is running out.

BDG has met four times with a special Marquette Neighborhood Association (MNA) subcommittee to tweak the design so that it will fit within the guidelines of the Williamson BUILD Plan II that was adopted in 2004. The chief issue is the height of the project, which currently is proposed at 10 stories, giving some pause while others say this is the best kind of infill development for an underutilized space.

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722 Willy Developers to Present Project Changes

Three design variations to be presented this week at special P&D meeting

MNA’s Preservation & Development Committee will hold their monthly meeting at a special time on Wednesday October 23 to view proposed changes to the 722 Williamson development. The 722 Williamson Subcommittee of P&D has met several times with the project developers, Baldwin Development Group, and committee chairman Bruce Woods reports that BDG will present several changes based on neighborhood input.

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722 Willy Working Group Outlines Concerns

MNA committee sends UDC its initial take on proposed development

It is unknown at this point if meetings between a special Marquette Neighborhood Association working group and Baldwin Development Group will yield any changes to a development planned for the 700 block of Williamson Street. The MNA 722 Subcommittee was formed to work through concerns about the project with BDG after the developer signaled it would seek exceptions to building guidelines developed by the neighborhood.

The 722 Williamson Subcommittee, part of MNA’s Preservation & Development Committee, has met several times now with BDG and last week committee chairman Bruce Woods sent a letter to Madison’s Urban Design Commission outlining their initial concerns. The letter gives no indication that BDG was planning any changes based on the discussions. What the letter does do is formalize and organize the varying concerns and plaudits that have been expressed about the design so far.  Continue reading

MNA Elections Have Consquences

Annual Membership Meeting a chance to celebrate and set priorities

Former MNA President Scott Thornton addresses the 2012 meeting. MNA has seen a resurgence in membership recently and is strong advocate within the city.

Former MNA President Scott Thornton addresses the 2012 meeting. MNA has seen a resurgence in membership recently and is strong advocate within the city.

In the same month that the Marquette Neighborhood was honored for being one of the greatest places to live in America, partly due to the strong engagement by its residents, a key meeting this week by its association may play a role in the shape of the neighborhood for years to come. The Marquette Neighborhood Association will hold its annual Membership Meeting Thursday October 17, 6 p.m. in the Marquette Elementary School cafeteria.

Most years this meeting is a time for the MNA Board to present an overview of the past year and the one ahead, elect new officers, consider initiatives, collect membership dues, and approve the budget. This year seems to carry special weight as several contentious issues in the areas of development, festivals, and how the Board itself conducts business and fills vacancies have bubbled up among the members.

The jammed packed agenda was deemed so critical that guest speaker Wisconsin State Representative Chris Taylor was asked to move her appearance to the November meeting to accommodate the proceedings.

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My Fair Willy

36th Annual Willy Street Fair prepares to make us happy to be neighbors

Courtesy: David Michael Miller

Have you got time for one last summer festival? The Willy Street Fair will straddle the Autumnal Equinox this year with sunny and 65 predicted for Saturday September 21 and Sunday September 22, the first day of fall.

The fair is a major fundraiser for Common Wealth Development and the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center. Common Wealth Development and the neighborhood at large have gotten pretty good at putting on this event. The food and retail vendors are more numerous, the music stages highly coordinated and more spophisticated, but the inclusive soul of the neighborhood still shines through.

Maybe its just me who has noticed this but, now fair Saturday is named as “The Willy St. Warm-up” and the actual fair is Sunday. Don’t be confused by these marketing semantics, there will be music, fun, dancing, and food each day, all day.

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MNA Establishes 722 Willy Working Group

Subcommittee formed to work with developer to resolve concerns

A view of the north side of the proposed development at 722 Williamson Street.

A view of the north side of the proposed development at 722 Williamson Street.

The one clear fact that emerged from the Marquette Neighborhood Association Preservation & Development Committee (MNA P&D) meeting today (September 18) is that the proposed development at 722 Williamson Street is the first true test of the Williamson Street 600 to 1100 Blocks Better Urban Infill Development (BUILD) Program II plan which was launched 10 years ago.

From the beginning its was apparent the two hours allotted for this monthly meeting would not be enough to deeply discuss the many aspects of the proposal by Baldwin Development Group (BDG) and make a recommendation to the MNA Board that would properly represent the wishes of the neighborhood.

Early on, it was proposed that a subcommittee be formed to meet with BDG on a frequent basis to present the issues raised by the neighborhood and offer guidance as BDG further refines their design in advance of the upcoming City approval processes such as the Urban Design Commission (UDC), which is the next stop for this project.

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Interviewing Wild Orangutans

Marquette neighborhood grapples with proposed development at 722 Willy Street

An architectual rendering of the proposed development "722 Williamson". Courtesy: Baldwin Development Group

An architectual rendering of the proposed development “722 Williamson”. Courtesy: Baldwin Development Group

Neighborhood planning covenants are playing into the debate over a large mixed-use development proposed for the 700 block of Williamson Street which would fill in the parking lots between and behind Ground Zero Coffee and the Olds building, possibly reaching ten stories into the air.

Baldwin Development Group wants to build a $46-million retail and housing complex on property owned by Williamson Associates, LLC, an entity of the The Rifkin Group, which also owns three other buildings on the block. The three-tiered design, currently named “722 Williamson”, would feature retail and office space along Williamson with seven- and ten-story apartment towers deeper into the property.

The proposal is drawing mixed reactions from the neighborhood, with some hailing its design and density and others bristling that the towering building exceeds the Williamson Street 600 to 1100 Blocks Better Urban Infill Development (BUILD) Program II plan, which seeks to preserve the historic character of the street. District 6 Alder Marsha Rummel says the development would include approximately 220 apartments, 5,600 square feet of commercial space, 386 parking stalls and co-working space.

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Cycropia’s Enchanting Evening

Circus Quercus amazes and delights Family Night at Orton Park

Luv Joy Seamon (center) and two other Cycropia performers during the opening act of Circus Quercus on Family Night at the Orton Park Festival, August, 22, 2013.

Luv Joy Seamon (center) and two other Cycropia performers during the opening act of Circus Quercus on Family Night at the Orton Park Festival, August, 22, 2013.

Several thousand people, most of them families, gathered under the grand oak next to the Orton Park gazebo to watch Cycropia’s salute to the trees of the park and the modern circus movement with their performance of Circus Quercus.

Crycropia uses various rings, trapezes, and custom-made metal apparatuses adorned with colorful silks and suspended from trees in their performances. Thursday (August 22) was a veritable mid-summer night’s dream as theater-style lighting allowed the performers to fade in and out of the darkness like one had happened upon playful forest creatures in a clearing on a glorious summer evening.

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