A downtown design committee showed interest Thursday night in getting a planned redeveloping of the 700 block of State Street done a year earlier than originally planned.
With one member going so far as to refer to the concrete-heavy area in front of the University Book Store as a "DMZ," or demilitarized zone, the State Street Design Project Oversight Committee expressed hope that the redevelopment could be part of the city's 2011 budget and completed by 2012.
The 700 block, which many falsely believe to be apart of the university's Library Mall, is actually the city's responsibility to maintain and remodel.
While the rest of State Street has been paved and landscaped in the past decade, this particular block has not seen any development since the 1970s -- and, said Ald. Julia Kerr, a committee member, "it looks every bit like it's from 1971."
One point of contention was whether city engineers should develop the plans or if they should seek outside help. Some committee members thought the city could do the work, while others thought outside consulting would be necessary.
The redevelopment must be done in a way that meshes with the rest of Library Mall, as well as East Campus Mall, both of which lie under the jurisdiction of the UW-Madison and not the city.
"It's not that planning couldn't design this," said Ald. Kerr. "The university is a serious participant, I would think that they should pitch in [some money] and expand the boundaries further down Library Mall."
Also at the meeting, a city engineer gave an update on downtown construction, including the renovation to Peace Park, which, while about a week behind at this point due to weather, should still be completed by Sept. 1.
And the committee gave its final approval to an ordinance that would regulate the size and color of newsstands in the downtown area.
Mary Carbine, executive director of the downtown improvement district, said her organization has been pushing the initiative since 2001. It would mandate that news stands on State Street and the Capitol Square be painted black and be around four feet in height.
Though the ordinance will now go to the Common Council, but chairman Ted Crabb said he wouldn't be surprised if it ended up coming back to the committee for more work: "This one has the ability to keep on returning despite everything."
If the ordinance is passed by the council, companies that use the newsstands will have four months to comply.