Madison Dairy Plant Proposal

from Knothe and Bruce Architects

Frank Production’s proposal for a 2,000-capacity concert venue on the site of the old Madison Dairy Plant appears all but dead in its current form. Madison City Planners sent Stonehouse Development a letter Nov. 7 notifying the developers that they could not support the project.

The Department of Planning & Community and Economic Development explained that Stonehouse Development had not developed a suitable parking solution for the project and that the City could not provide TIF money for the proposal. The City also had concerns over the size of the concert venue.

What remains of the rest of the project—affordable housing along Mifflin Street and commercial space along East Washington Avenue—is unknown.


What worked and what didn’t work

Affordable housing is a great asset for the Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood. In fact, income-restricted housing is what allowed me to move to the neighborhood while I was still trying to get on my post-college feet.

And the 3-4 story row house design along Mifflin is great option for that block. Stonehouse did a great job with the City Row apartments, and Park Central is a solid building too.

Commercial space along East Washington is also a plus.

from the Cap Times

But I was one of many in the Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood with mixed feelings about the concert venue from the start. And here’s why:

I live in a unit that doesn’t face a street, so extra noise is not a worry for me. I don’t own a car, so parking is not an issue. I don’t have children, so local schools are not something I think a lot about. And I’m a night owl, so extra activity around the neighborhood in the evening doesn’t worry me.


That doesn’t mean I don’t care about each of those issues. And that’s because I don’t want development in my neighborhood that my neighbors don’t want.

You can build all the wonderful new structures you want, but a great neighborhood is only born organically and only grown over time. So I want development that my neighborhood wants.

Here’s the thing: Young millennials (often referred to as “them” and “those people”) are also part of the neighborhood. We also think. We are intelligent. And we are not nearly as selfish as some might think we are. (Or noisy and drunk)

Opposition to this project largely centered around parking issues and late-night noise. It matters to me that those issues matter to many of my neighbors. The best urban planning includes the community.


Doomed from the start?

Frank Productions' problems began back in summer in the Tenney Park Shelter when they first unveiled the their designs at a neighborhood meeting. They came into that shelter defensive and ready to fight. I didn’t commit names to memory and I’m not here to blame individuals anyway. But some members of the Frank team that night came off as rude, dismissive and defensive towards our neighborhood.

I’ve heard similar complaints in meetings since. Why?

I don’t think it’s been any members of the Frank family, directly. But any members of their team become representatives for the entire brand. There was no reason for their team to come into the neighborhood with short tempers and defensive patience. Frank Productions got off on the wrong foot.

I know development is not always a kind game. And neither is music promotion. But the tone Frank Production’s team set at that first meeting was not a tone that will make any friends in any neighborhood.    


What now?

City Planners indicated in their letter that they would continue to work with Stonehouse and Frank to find another location in the Cap East district for the concert venue. We will have to wait to see if Frank Productions is committed to finding that location on the near east side.

I also remain hopeful that Stonehouse can move forward with a housing proposal along East Mifflin Street. And the commercial space remains logical. But Stonehouse will have to find a significant replacement in this development for the concert venue.

With the recent demand for development in the Cap East District, it's hopefully only a matter of time before a new proposal comes to this site. And whoever develops that proposal now has a much better sense of what makes the neighborhood nervous and what the city expects.