Meeting on Parman Place Development draws up to 100

On March 17 at 6:30 pm, an informal meeting of residents in the area was convened by Alder Brian Solomon at Edgewood College. The meeting focused on the proposed “Parman Place” Development at the corner of Glenway and Monroe Streets.

The meeting ran for two hours, attended by 75-100 residents from the area immediately surrounding the development, within District 10. They had been notified by a mailing from Alder Solomon, and by internet media.

The purpose of the meeting was to present the plans, with an opportunity for feedback from residents of the area. The comments will be considered by the developer and the plan modified to take them into account. A “straw poll” decided that this would be the first of three neighborhood meetings on the development. The slides from the presentation will be made available to the public. The best way to stay informed is to watch the DMNA website.

Solomon introduced, followed by Heather Stouder, a planner from the City’s Planning Division, who spoke briefly about the zoning laws. The development will necessitate a change in the zoning from C1 (Limited Commercial) to PUDSIP. This means Planned Unit Development with a Specific Implementation Plan.

The reason for the zoning change was explained mostly during questions and answers later. C1 allows for mostly commercial development with some residential, and only 2 stories or 40 feet in height. There are open space and setback (from curb) requirements that the planned development couldn’t meet.

The zoning laws are old and haven’t been changed since 1966, so C1 is no longer very relevant. The laws are currently being updated. But most developments of this type now are PUD. The SIP part allows for specific requirements for the development to be built in to the plan. There are three stages of public approval. The final step is approval by the Common Council, which might happen two months after the final plan is proposed by the developer.

The site for Parman Place is called the “Glenway Node” of the Monroe Street Design District. That, and the neighborhood plan, call for redevelopment of this site “up to four stories.”

Apparently, when the plan left neighborhood hands, it listed the site for redevelopment “up to 2 stories.” Later, Brian Solomon explained that this change probably happened because it is City policy to favor “urban infill,” where the city builds upward (to greater density), rather than outward (urban sprawl).

Under the Planned Unit Development zoning, both the Plan Commission and ordinances will push for

  • Compatibility with the physical nature of the site
  • Aesthetic desirability and economic stability
  • Will consider effects on schools and municipal services
  • Will consider traffic and parking demands
  • Preservation and maintenance of open space
The Development team presents

Randy Bruce--Lead Architect (right) began, describing the plan.

Located on a major artery, the building will make a statement about the neighborhood, and create a sort of introduction to the city. It will establish the lifestyle of the area, about jobs, environment, business, and safety. Quality materials are planned.

 The basement will house parking space for 19 cars.

The ground floor will house 3300 sq ft of commercial space, plus an entrance on Monroe St. for residents, and stairs. Facing the rear will be a parking area for 6 cars, for people visiting the commercial areas.

The second floor will have 15? apartments.

 The Third floor houses 8 apartments, with a step back.

The Fourth floor will house 5 apartments, with a ten-foot further setback.

The total is 22 apartments, with parking available for 19 cars. Three apartments are efficiencies, 15 are one bedroom, and four are two bedrooms.

As for appearance, I’d say it will look much like Sequoia Commons--the same height, although the overall footprint is smaller. Similar to Sequoia, the appearance will be broken down into smaller subunits, with setbacks. I’ll post a photo of the drawing when I receive one.

There will be landscaping by Peter Nause.

Fred Rouse (center) stressed that he is a longtime resident of the area, and that all the properties he owns and manages are very hands-on, with extremely low turnover, and carefully managed.

Questions and answers (paraphrased)

 Questions received before and during this session revealed the following concerns
  • Appearance--four stories are too high for character of nationhood
  • Lack of buffer--project very close to residents located behind it
  • Impact on parking in area. Some people working downtown already use the area as “park and ride”
  • Impact on traffic congestion and safety
  • Impact on Lake Wingra from construction site erosion
Q: Numerous traffic concerns, such as left turns and getting rear-ended while turning onto Wyota.

A: The development will aggravate problems that already exist, but the Traffic Dept. will definitely be involved, to help solve these problems.

Mark Landgraft (left) was one of the three speakers for the project.
He is Representative of the Owner, and General Contractor.

Q: Can you assure us that during construction, all the laws about erosion control will be scrupulously followed, so there isn’t a repeat of the disaster of sediment spills that happened during Edgewood Avenue reconstruction? The City doesn‘t police construction sites, and has never handed out fines.”

A: by Landgraft: “We’ve never been issued a citation.” Laughs. “Yes, we will follow all requirements.”

It quickly became evident that the majority of people present were opposed to the development, at least in its present form. Although a few people made statements with obvious emotion, discussion remained polite and considerate.

Q: Can you really build a big basement for parking successfully, in such a wet area? During storms, floods of water come down Glenway and Monroe Streets.

A: We will have sump pumps, and a rain garden. We’ve built in other areas, with basements below the lake level. (Our comment: Note the continuing energy requirement for pumping.)

Q: One neighbor said the area was dark and quiet an night, and was very concerned about light pollution.

A: There will be security lights on all night.

Q: Is sale of the property a done deal, or contingent?

A: Sale is contingent on passing all the regulatory hurdles for this project.

Statement by one resident: “We shouldn’t even be having this conversation about the height of the project, because the plan we sent out from the neighborhood said that there shouldn’t be a development this high.” (Much applause from the audience.)

Alder Solomon made a strong argument for infill development, saying that it was good for the City as a whole. It was an issue of building up or building out (sprawl). Sprawl leads to more commuting traffic, loss of the rural surrounds of the city, energy waste, and pollution. He implied that many residents of the district were environmentalists, and might be in favor of infill. One resident replied, with fervor: “Don’t tell us what we want or what to do!” (Solomon denied that he was.)

Q: Tiny, curbless Wyota Street can’t handle the traffic.

A: Some wanted the entrance to parking far from the intersection, and others wanted it close to the intersection, to benefit from the traffic light. We’ve done a compromise between the two.

Q: About the location of the rain garden.

A: It hasn’t been determined yet. Water will leave the site at a slower rate than the current property, which is entirely paved, due to the rain garden and cisterns we will build.

One resident said: “I don’t have a problem with the fourth floor--but I DO have a problem with the first through the third floors.” Many laughs.

A show of hands revealed that about a quarter of the people present had a problem with the fourth story and/or the density of the project.

Q: Will there be pollution problems with removal of the fuel tanks at Parman’s Service Station?

A: The tanks have already been removed, the cleanup is done and certified.

Q: How will the commercial space compare to areas I am familiar with?

A: Mallatt’s Pharmacy has about 1000 square feet, so this development at 3300 squ ft will be more than 3 times Mallatt’s.

Q: This development will change what the neighborhood’s like. What good things can this bring other than dollars to the developer?

A: Considerable discussion, but the boildown is this: There are citywide benefits from “infill.” There will be less through traffic in the neighborhood (due to commuting), and there will be amenities from the commercial space, such as restaurants. There will be stability and job creation (from the property management, commercial use, and construction jobs). It will be a livable corner.

Lynne Asked: The development seems out of scale with the neighborhood. How does this relate to the change in zoning?

A: We want to change to PUD zoning for two reasons. The intensity will exceed the current zoning. There are other details, such as parking, closeness to the curb, which C1 doesn’t allow, but PUD does. PUD give the project flexibility, because the details are customized and built in to the approval.

The Architect stated that Mallatt’s has decided not to become part of the development now. But the whole block will eventually be renovated. This project is planned to be compatible with whatever the rest of the block becomes.

Statement by Sam, whose property abuts on the rear: The row of tall spruce trees on my property edge will certainly be killed during construction by root damage. So don’t depend on the trees hiding the new development. They won’t be there.

Statement: “My family operates a bakery. Any restaurant in this development will have to have food delivered by SYSCO, they deliver in semi trucks, and there is no room for semi’s here. So that precludes any restaurants in the commercial space.

A: by Fred Rouse: We also operate a restaurant, and our deliveries from SYSCO do not come in semi’s. This is not an issue.

The meeting concluded with a straw vote: Sixty to seventy percent want another meeting on the development, after traffic and safety issues are addressed. One person asked that alders from neighboring districts, and residents from further away be invited.

My comments after the meeting

There's a rumor that a "green roof" is being considered for Parman Place.  This would be consitent with the high standards of "green infrastructure" being planned by City Engineering for the Monroe Street reconstruction, planned for 2013. The reconstruction of Monroe St. will be the test bed for a new policy of green streets for Madison.

If Parman Place really gets a green roof, this might help with marketing of the Glenway Node and Parman Place apartments as an innovative development, consistent with the beautiful Arboretum setting and the green street around it.

Note:  If there are any errors, let me know, and I'll correct them.

More on green roofs.

1 comment:

  1. Based upon my attendance at the first half of the meeting only, this is a good, accurate summary of the meeting, the presentations, and the issued that emerged.

    I would emphasize the importance of controlling soil erosion from the site, given it's proximity to the Arboretum and storm drains that run directly into the storm water pond across the street.

    Given the City's spotty record at construction inspection and enforcement, it will be up to citizen observers and reporters to supplement the City's engineering and streets staff.


Please feel free to comment on the article above, or on other watershed issues.