As housing and office space dominates in 2020, Brian Vandewalle talks development, transportation, and fighting urban sprawl.
Peloton Residences, at South Fish Hatchery Road and South Park Street, is just one example of taking an underutilized site (the former Bancroft Dairy) and maximizing its potential.
Rendering: Angus Young Associates
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From the pages of In Business magazine.
Imagine the East Washington Corridor without the Constellation or Galaxie, or without the American Family Insurance Spark building and StartingBlock. Where would “The Ave” be without a renovated Breese Stevens Field, Flamingo soccer games, or concerts at the Sylvee?
Face it, life might seem somewhat bland without a flashy AC Hotel Madison, a second tower (and ice rink!) at the Edgewater, a hipper downtown Middleton, and water access to restaurants along the Yahara River in Monona. Ten years ago, these projects didn’t exist. Now, they are shining examples of how growth has continued to alter the landscape as Greater Madison proves its value as one of the best places to live, work, and play.
Inside the following pages, we present a selection of projects scheduled to go online in 2020 as developers build housing (including affordable housing), business headquarters, and event spaces to accommodate what has been about 60,000 more residents every 10 years.
Brian Vandewalle, CEO/president/owner/founder of Vandewalle and Associates Inc., is an urban planner and architect who’s played a large role in the city’s trajectory since launching his business in 1979. He’s consulted on many of the area’s largest developments, from Monona’s Waterfront and River Place to the Capitol East District along East Washington Avenue, and further north to the 800-acre American Center Campus. The company works throughout the Midwest, but “studies Dane County constantly,” Vandewalle says, and is currently consulting with city planners on the Oscar Mayer Special Area Plan and the future 164-acre Alliant Energy Center Campus.
We asked for Vandewalle's thoughts on what has become a hotbed of activity.
Transportation or bust
“Epic has really changed our city,” Vandewalle states. “As a business owner, we can now attract top talent from anywhere in the country, any university. People like to live here even though Madison is a small city. We’re getting top talent, too.”
That means transportation will be key in the future, he adds, to move people from one side of town to the other, because the ongoing challenge will always be what people here cherish most — the lakes and the isthmus. “We have to work around it,” notes Vandewalle.
Transportation and development go hand in hand in a bustling economy, and on that topic Vandewalle is in step with Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and others who believe bus rapid transit is one option to help move people east and west more quickly through the isthmus.
While BRT, electric vehicles, community cars, and rideshare services may help reduce the number of vehicles on the road and carbon emissions in the air, Vandewalle hopes for more reliable, longer-term solutions, as well, suggesting a future transportation system that also includes rail (commuter or otherwise).
He also would like to see an investment in technologies such as sensor-based smart traffic lights that change only as necessary. “How many times do we get stuck idling at a red light when there’s no cross traffic anywhere in sight?” he asks, noting that all that idling spews carbon emissions into the air.
The technology is there but none of it comes cheaply or quickly, which may explain Vandewalle’s sense of urgency. “We really need to plan for this over the next 10 to 20 years,” he cautions, “and we can’t wait because politics takes a long time and not everyone is thinking about the future and how to deal with it.”
As for building in the central city, Vandewalle says we have two choices: build up or build out. The challenge, he acknowledges, is making them affordable at the same time. “Up doesn’t have to look like East Washington Avenue,” he insists.
“Up can mean a four-story, 100-unit apartment building.”
Vandewalle credits projects like the Peloton Residences, a T. Wall Enterprises project going up at South Fish Hatchery Road and South Park Street, for taking an underutilized site (the former Bancroft Dairy) and maximizing its potential. When completed this spring, the Peloton will offer 172 market-rate apartments on bus lines and within walking distance of medical clinics, hospitals, and UW–Madison.
“We also need to be smarter about how large our buildings are,” he adds. Some neighborhoods around employment centers like SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital or UW Hospitals & Clinics have been transformed from student housing into small, single-family homes allowing people to walk or bike to work. “Hopefully that concept continues,” he says. “There should be a conscious effort to live near work, which also avoids sprawl.”
Urban sprawl can be a detriment on many levels, from traffic to pollution to public health and safety.
“Go to Portland or Seattle,” Vandewalle comments. “Really cool cities; people want to live there but try driving to the coast and you’ll drive through miles and miles of urban sprawl. One advantage we have is that we don’t have to drive far.”
It’s all about “smart, city thinking,” he says. “Planning here is very sophisticated. In years past, someone might design a project that wouldn’t get implemented right away, so we’d later take on an older idea that someone else proposed.
“Now we’re planning with intent in terms of what should go where.”
Artisan Village, a six-building project from the Alexander Co. and Bear Development, opens in 2020 in the Novation Campus off Rimrock Road. It will offer 169 units of multifamily living within minutes of downtown Madison.
The affordable development will use the concept of income averaging to help make residential units more affordable.
In other words, the complex will be able to serve households with incomes of up to 70 percent of area median income (AMI) so long as the average income of the overall community remains at 60 percent or less of AMI.
Artisan Village will also offer six live/work spaces (with storefronts) for creative types or professionals with home-based businesses. The overall idea is to attract people working on the growing Novation Campus, which currently employs about 1,300 people in health care, technology, and other key business categories, and also fight sprawl.
Across town, the redevelopment of the 72-acre former Oscar Mayer site has only recently begun, and Vandewalle describes it as a “real location, location, location destination” that could significantly boost east Madison and even Monona. It may take 20 to 30 years to fully develop the entire property, but the potential economic impact is enormous and could bring as many as 4,000 good-paying jobs, taller and more dense housing complexes, and more.
“Think of the future impact of Epic Systems and Exact Sciences and their importance not only for the city and the state of Wisconsin but I think to the nation, as well, in terms of their economic impact and what they’re doing for human health,” Vandewalle notes.
“We just need to be smart about growing our city, and we can’t stop. That’s the important thing.”