What would it take….

IB Publisher Jody Glynn Patrick writes about business for her column, with a departure to “no business allowed” in her blog “After Hours.” Even the print magazine’s parameters are loose for Jody, as she writes from the heart and typically more toward HR or human interest topics.

I wrote a blog inviting readers to submit ideas for creating/building/capitalizing on an iconic something or other for the Greater Madison region, and I’m repeating the rules of the contest here so that if you missed the blog, you can still sprinkle your brilliance dust on an idea and submit it.

First, let me state unequivocally that there are no contest rules but two: (1) that the location is the Madison region and (2) that you have your idea to me by July 15 for judging. I don’t care if you write the idea on a napkin and mail it to me (200 River Place, Madison, 53716) or e-mail it to me (jody@ibmadison.com) or deliver it in person at the office. It doesn’t matter if you build a scaled model of your project idea or submit it on an Etch-A-Sketch. Judges will decide what wins versus what is just silly.

The winner will get fame and even a taste of good fortune, though I’m not sure what the prize will be yet. So (truthfully) it likely won’t be the prize that is the incentive to enter, but rather the knowledge that you are contributing the next “great idea” to spur regional economic development.

Let me also stress that this is not a City of Madison contest, though I intend to pass along the winning entries to both Mayor Paul Soglin and Deb Archer, head of the Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau. Archer’s office has offered to hook us up with out-of-area judges in the tourist business, and I’m sure I’ll take her up on it. You have my word that the judges will be independent and knowledgeable.

So here it is in a nutshell: Milwaukee has the Calatrava; St. Louis, the Arch; Seattle, the Space Needle; Greater Minneapolis, the Mall of America. Chicago has Navy Pier and the Sears Tower (call it what you will, it will always be the Sears Tower to me); San Antonio, the River Walk.

What does Madison have, or what should it have, that transcends the “expected amenity” to become the iconic?

So far we have suggestions that include building an island in Lake Monona behind Monona Terrace, on which there would be a huge fountain powered by a lake pump. The island would be developed for boating and picnics and concerts (people sit in boats and on shore to listen to the concerts).

We actually started the contest with a suggestion that State Street have a canal with Venetian rowing boats on it. Fun, eh?

Or do you have a better idea?

I’m torn. Half of me is excited about new ideas and half of me thinks we should capitalize on what we already have, adding whatever is needed to push some existing structure(s) or opportunity into the “iconic” realm. Monona Terrace alone isn’t enough – most larger cities have impressive convention centers. The UW has the same competition for cool buildings, though a couple on campus can give any building anywhere a run for its money. But how do we take an existing structure and ELEVATE it to ICONIC?

State Street (sorry, DMI) does not measure up to a China Town or Denver’s pedestrian 16th Street Mall, where free shuttle buses cruise the 1.25-mile-long mall seven days a week. Likewise, we have prime lake real estate that is underdeveloped and underutilized and, in my opinion, Madison is nowhere near the attraction an isthmus city could be. (I’ve lived in Chicago with Belmont Harbor, Milwaukee with Bradford Beach and others, and Denver, which has done a great job with its Cherry Creek Reservoir and other natural resources.)

I feel like Madison is on the verge of something great, but I don’t know what it is. Those of us who live here would say the whole is already much greater than the sum of its parts, but that’s just preaching to the choir. You can’t sell that to a travel agent.

So my interest in the project is genuine, the contest is legit, and we really do want your submissions. IB has made the rules as flexible as possible because great ideas can start as doodles or models or anything in between. What’s your idea? Tell us today!

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