Our network

Traffic, safety concerns at heart of clash over proposed building | Politics

Title (Max 100 Characters)

Traffic, safety concerns at heart of clash over proposed building

The Madison Common Council will weigh in on a planned multistory building development that’s upset area residents since late May.

The project would replace a car repair shop on Monroe Street and the house next door on Knickerbocker Street with a 21-unit apartment building with retail space.

City planners said the development makes sense for expanding business and growing the neighborhood. But Dudgeon-Monroe neighborhood residents said the apartments and 2,300 square feet of commercial space will bring added traffic and with it, danger to pedestrians including kids playing in the area.

Freelance videographer Michael Kienitz spoke to several Knickerbocker and Monroe Street residents in July, who told him they were worried about neighborhood safety for their children. He said he was inspired to make the video because he felt “the neighborhoods impacted the most by these ... developments ... seem to have the least input.”

Amanda Solberg, who lives on Knickerbocker, said she’s worried about the kids on the block. Her son is the youngest of 21 kids in the area.

“I’m worried by the time he’s old enough to do [outdoor activities], the neighborhood won’t be safe for him because of traffic,” Solberg said.

Susan Elias, another Monroe Street resident, was hit by a car as she crossed Monroe Street at Knickerbocker last year.

District 13 Alder Sue Ellingson said the project has caused frustration between the Planning Council -- which approved the project on July 8 -- and citizens.

“These are people that I like and respect and we both want the same thing: what’s best for the neighborhood,” Ellingson said. “We can’t agree and that’s pretty frustrating and tragic.”

She said the project is meant to help, not harm, the Monroe and Knickerbocker streets area.

“Smart growth is critical,” Ellingson added. “Neighborhoods end up declining that don’t have new investments.”

Principal architect on the project Randy Bruce of Knothe Bruce Architects in Middleton said one major complaint from the neighborhood residents is about locating the planned building’s driveway on Knickerbocker Street. He said that plan was borne from a city recommendation.

“We placed the driveway on Knickerbocker based on early discussions with traffic engineering staff,” Bruce said. “[Moving the driveway is] just not on the table. That’s an issue that we believe is contrary to the city’s planning efforts throughout the city.”

A petition from neighbors appealing the project was filed July 12.

The Common Council will hear the issue at its meeting Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the City-County Building, Room 201.

Ellingson and Bruce both noted that the city’s traffic engineers estimated no significant traffic changes due to the new building.

If the council sides with the planning committee, construction could begin in October with completion scheduled in the summer of 2014, Bruce said.

In order to refer the project back to the planning department, 14 out of 20 council votes are required.

Multiple phone calls to the planning division were not returned Tuesday.

Madison Near West Deals

Madison Near West Businesses