When Jon Becker's projector failed to work, a small crowd gathered around his computer to see plans for a "land bridge" that would join a new Union Corners development on East Washington Avenue to the Emerson East neighborhood across the street.
The East Isthmus Neighborhoods Planning Council coordinated a meeting on Wednesday to collect feedback on the housing components of two pending proposals for Union Corners. The city acquired the large lot in 2010 and will choose between plans from Stone House Development and Gorman and Company after receiving a recommendation from the Union Corners Ad Hoc Committee. The committee may make its recommendation as soon as its next meeting on Thursday, Nov. 1, says Aaron Olver, director of economic development for the city.
Five proposals were initially submitted for the site.
The plans for a land bridge (PDF) that would cross East Washington at Milwaukee Street were developed by the Capital Region Advocacy Network for Environmental Sustainability, Inc. (CRANES), an education and advocacy group.
"It's a bridge that doesn't carry cars, it carries people," said Becker. The bridge is designed to connect neighborhoods, he added. The group hopes that its plans would be considered by whichever developer is chosen by the city.
Discussion at Wednesday's meeting focused on rental prices, housing density, safety issues and potential accommodations for Madison's homeless population. Helen Bradbury, president of Stone House Development said her company's proposal calls for about 200 units of housing, of which 20% would rent at market price (about $1,400 for a two-bedroom unit), and the rest below market price.
There were no representatives from Gorman at the meeting, which was sparsely attended.
Caroline Werner, senior programming consultant for OutReach, a gay advocacy and resource organization, suggested that temporary housing for homeless people be part of a community center. She also proposed creating senior housing that's friendly to the aging lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population in Madison.
"We don't currently fit into some of the conventional housing [for seniors]," said Werner. She said she would like to see a safe community for elderly LGBT people in a neighborhood that, "already welcomes them."
Art Hackett, co-chair of the East Isthmus Neighborhood Planning Council, noted that the stretch of Winnebago Street near the Union Corners site "is acting as a homeless shelter now." He said that people living in cars there would be displaced once development begins, possibly in 2013.
Bradbury said there's always a demand for affordable housing, but noted the lack of incentives for developers to offer anything to the homeless population.
The Planning Council had a checklist on hand of items on its Community Benefits Agreement to help residents weigh the benefits of the two plans for Union Corners. The list includes green certified buildings, mixed-use development, on-site power generation, shared community space and children's play areas, among other options.
The idea for a land bridge across East Washington Avenue got its first public viewing at Wednesday's meeting.
The ambitious plan calls for housing built on top of the bridge, along with retail space and community gardens. Wind turbines along the support structure would generate electricity from the passing cars.
CRANES will meet on Friday, Oct. 26 to discuss its next steps, said Becker in a follow-up email. "Probably we'll seek guidance from the alders for the neighborhoods, others on the Ad Hoc Union Corners Committee, and city planning commission leadership/staff."