The city has installed a few temporary bathrooms while it investigates how to create permanent facilities.
A new portable bathroom has taken up residence alongside the City-County Building, accessible 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Recently installed, it exists for anyone that needs it, particularly the homeless Madison residents that have been sleeping outside the building.
While this is one of several portable public restrooms available in downtown Madison, Ald. Mike Verveer says there is increasing demand among residents, businesses and visitors for more.
"Given the size of our city and the number of visitors we receive, we are sorely lacking in visible public restrooms," Verveer says.
Earlier this year, the Common Council formed the Ad Hoc Downtown Public Restroom Committee
The city budget for the upcoming fiscal year allocated $300,000 to fund this project, Verveer says.
In addition to the restroom near the City-County Building, the only other 24/7 public restrooms (PDF) that currently exist are located in the State Street Campus Parking Garage, the Capitol Square North Garage and the Dane County Parking Ramp, according to Jeanne Hoffman, the facilities and sustainability manager for the city.
A staff report (PDF) released in July laid out several potential options for new facilities, including stand-alone options and restroom trailers.
At their first meeting held Tuesday, the committee discussed the possibility of keeping the Downtown Visitor Center located next to Peace Park at 452 State St. open full-time, Verveer says.
"There's a lot to be said of that approach because [the Downtown Visitor Center] is only a few years old and very centrally located," Verveer says.
However, Verveer adds the committee will need more information on how often that restroom is used and how much it would cost to continually staff the center before they can recommend it to be used.
The committee also considered working with private companies to incorporate a public restroom into an upcoming downtown development, Verveer says, but some members felt that might be a challenge.
Susan Schmitz, president of Downtown Madison, Inc. and chair of the committee, says she has reached out to other cities that are undergoing a similar project to see what they have done. She says the committee is particularly interested in cities with the type of weather that can cause pipes to freeze.
The committee will continue to meet every two weeks until May, when they will submit a recommendation to the council for expanding the downtown public restroom facilities.