Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz sees a 2,800-acre chunk of land on the city's northeast side as an opportunity to do something unprecedented.
"It will be a huge addition to the city," he says of the land, some already in the city, some slated to be annexed, mostly from the town of Burke. When developed, the area will hold as many as 20,000 people. "It's like we're building a new city of Sun Prairie."
A few months back, the mayor reviewed a plan for the area prepared by city planning staff. "I thought they had done a good job," he says. But he wondered "if we could really make this something special" - by reimagining it as national model for green development.
Cieslewicz calls for "pushing the envelope on every cutting-edge idea." Streets could be oriented to "take full advantage of passive solar heating." Terraces could double as rain gardens to maximize stormwater infiltration. Transit options could include a stop on an already planned commuter rail line.
On May 16, the mayor met with several landowners who want to develop the area. He calls the meeting "cordial." So they were on board? "It certainly wasn't a hostile reaction," he says, although it also was not "embracing." He settles on "cautious."
Cieslewicz's characterizations will have to do. The lawyer for the landowners, Mike Lawton, ignored a request for his no doubt scintillating perspective.
Last week, Cieslewicz pitched his green neighborhood idea at a meeting of the Mayor's Institute of City Design in Chicago. "I was the only one [of seven mayors] to present a green-field development," he says, adding that while the group was skeptical about a peripheral development, "I came back with lots of ideas."
In mid-June, he's making a side jaunt from his visit to Madison's sister city of Freiberg, Germany, to the Vauban District, a small green community built in the mid-1990s.
"They tried to incorporate every green idea they could," he says brightly. Now it's our turn.