At around midnight last night, the Madison Common Council officially adopted the South Madison Plan to add more single-family homes to the city’s south side.
The plan, created by the City Plan Commission, will affect the neighborhoods between Fish Hatchery Road, Wingra Creek, the Beltline, and Lake Monona, containing the area around the Alliant Energy Center and South Park Street.
It looks to prevent displacement and gentrification in the community, as more and more large apartment buildings are built across Madison to accommodate a growing population. South side residents pointed towards East Washington Avenue as an example of what to avoid.
In a 2019 survey by the American Community Survey, a part of the US Census Bureau, 79.2% percent of homes in south Madison were occupied by renters, as opposed to 53% across the entire city. The survey also found that there were more multi-family homes in south Madison compared to the rest of the city.
The plan was first created in October of 2021, and the original version included more room for multi-family homes as a way to address housing issues in Madison. After comment from the community, however, the plan was changed to focus more on single-family homes.
One area of contention during the meeting was the Thorstad area near Wingra Creek. A last minute amendment by alder Tag Evers, the amendment would add more townhouses to the area, as well as more residential units in two mixed-use buildings. Evers says that the extra buildings will help the community to grow.
“Home ownership is the key, and is the big advantage to this plan. But we need to be careful not to make the mistake of conflating or making equal somehow homeownership with single-family housing. There’s no reason why we would want to limit ownership to those who purchase a single-family home. The key question before us: why shouldn’t we expand the option of affordable wealth building to a greater number of our residents, particularly given the high cost and the relative scarcity of public resources that we’re going to have available, particularly in these tough budget times. We’ve been told it’s going to cost a lot to subsidize these units, so let’s be efficient. Let’s get more bang for our buck,” Evers says.
But alder Sheri Carter, whose district contains the areas impacted by the plan, says that residents are concerned about the additional density.
“Well I think they’re concerned about packing, and usually packing leads to other things that are not positive. So, this was an opportunity to really create a neighborhood that would have been well planned, a neighborhood that reflected the essence of a neighborhood,” Carter says.
Evers amendment was passed by the council, a compromise made by Carter to get the plan passed.
Another issue raised by the community was the addition of 12-story buildings along John Nolen Drive. Residents were concerned that such large buildings could affect the wildlife in Olin and Turville Point Park. Carter says that the buildings were another needed compromise, and if the buildings were to go anywhere, along John Nolen was the best place for them
Carter praised the community’s participation with the plan, and said that the future of south Madison looks bright.
“I think with the new things that are coming in, like the Black Business Hub, like the Center of Black Excellence, of course you know Madison College was the first to come in and build something, but all of that is giving south Madison and their residents that energy that we haven’t seen in a long time,” Carter says.
It will take 10-15 years for any results of the plan to be seen. But as Madison’s population is expected to continue to grow, the south side will remain a smaller community against the busier downtown areas of the city.
Photo courtesy: Chali Pittman / WORT Flickr