More walkable, more connected: City of Madison unveils plan for Northeast Side

Big plans are in the works for Madison’s Northeast side as the  city works to meet residents’ needs for the community.

Last night, the City of Madison Planning Division unveiled its Northeast Area Plan to give residents a look at how the area will grow and change in the coming years. The plans came after months of community feedback. The Planning Division weighed the concerns and needs of residents with what’s feasible for the specific area compared to what already exists in city-wide plans and things out of Madison’s control.

The area covers approximately 7,000 residentsand 18,000 acres of land.

“We have to first check that (recommendations) are feasible, and that they make sense for the city, and the city has the money or will potentially have the money, to be able to implement such a recommendation,” said City of Madison urban planner Angela Puerta.

An overwhelming consensus among residents was the desire to increase walkability and pedestrian and bicyclist safety. The Planning Division recommends green streets, streets that prioritize pedestrians, public transit and bicyclists over cars, to address safety concerns.

“If you take a look at East Washington, near downtown, where Breese Stevens is and where Festivals Food is, you get a (better) sense of being safe even though there are more cars driving by that section of East Washington,” Puerta said. “It doesn’t feel as dangerous [there] as how it feels at Independence and East Washington.”

Additionally, the plan identifies three areas to rework and remove frontage streets – local streets that run parallel to higher-speed, limited access roads – to create more room for future developments.

To accommodate for the removal of frontage streets, the plan recommends better local street connections by extending Nakoosa Trail to Jana Lane, which will better link neighborhoods and give more access to Sycamore Park; connect the East Towne Area;  the create a new neighborhood north of Diloretto Avenue; and create better connections for Parkside Drive, Columbus Lane, Vernon Road and Hanson Road.

Affordable housing is another pressing issue residents of the area want addressed.Planning Division staff said the issue is largely out of the city’s control, but recommend a new tax increment district to incentivize developers to create mixed-use housing.

The community voiced that they would like to see the promotion of local business growth, address aesthetic issues and make more efficient use of “wasted space” around theEast Towne area and have better access to essential services like grocery stores and childcare for working families, according to the Northeast Area Plan.

Two neighborhoods have been granted federal funding for improvements. Burke Heights and Sandburg each received $200,000 to address health and safety concerns. Residents of the areas both ranked lighting and safety as their top projects for the city to develop.

“Almost 50% of its residents are people of color — and that’s probably the second area in the city that’s the most diverse. The first one is South Madison,” Puerta said. “It’s a vulnerable population. We want to make sure that it grows in a wise manner and fair manner.”

Burke Heights and Sandburg were eligible for federal funding because at least 50% of residents in the neighborhood are classified as low to moderate income. The two neighborhoods were the only two eligible for federal funding in the Northeast area of Madison, according to Puerta.

The Planning Division will continue to hold more meetings early next year as plans for the Northeast area continue to be worked on.

The full Northeast Area Plan can be viewed on the City of Madison’s website.