Back in February 2005, when then editor Marc Eisen's original "Boom Town" led the issue, I remarked in this column that we'd continue to follow the story of Madison's development. "There is plenty of story left to tell, and we'll be telling it for some time to come." Well, here it is four years later, almost to the issue, and we are still writing about it. Welcome to David Medaris' "The Sky's the Limit."
It is interesting how contexts change. Back in 2005, the mood was "land rush." Construction cranes pierced the skyline on every vista. Projects were so numerous it was hard to keep track, hence the timeliness of Eisen's "Boom Town." You really did need a scorecard to keep track of the players.
The times are decidedly different, and the mood is not so upbeat. In fact, when first conceived, Medaris' follow-up story was envisioned as "Bust Town." We'd observed some recent setbacks in local development: the suspension of McGrath's Union Corners project; the Whole Foods pullout at the Hilldale redevelopment; softness in recent downtown condo sales.
But upon investigation, Medaris discovered that development activity in Madison was not grinding to a halt. In fact, despite the slowing of the residential market on the periphery of Madison, downtown infill projects were moving along at a barely diminished pace. Hark! Do we detect a streak of optimism in the local economy?
It could indeed be that Madison's economy, historically insulated from the worst of economic downturns by the presence of state government and the University of Wisconsin, will continue to prosper. (Though if you witnessed the governor's budget address on Tuesday night, you'd have cause to doubt that.) It could also be that events will overtake the present situation, and indeed Boom Town could turn to Bust Town. But that hasn't happened, and let's not presume it will.