Global warming makes the news almost every day. Pollinators, such as the native Wisconsin bee pictured above have experienced drastic decline. Bird numbers have collapsed, experiencing a decline of nearly a third since the 1970s. These are some of the reasons why The Environment is one of my key goals as a candidate for Madison City Council.
In my 2020 / 2021 winter survey, people highlighted Madison parks as being very important to them. This was followed by access to job and living opportunities throughout Madison, so people don’t need to drive or commute as far, saving gas.
Madison has made parks a priority and spends significant resources maintaining its parks. Each named neighborhood has a park. The area near Agriculture Drive and Femrite has living opportunities, but no park, and the neighborhood has no name. Residents there have told me that they would like a park, and this area strikes me as an excellent opportunity to develop work and living opportunities, so that people could live, work and have recreation nearby. The area is only partly developed and has our new Fire Station #14 on Dairy Drive.
There are many strip malls in Madison, a feature of the “old economy,” going back decades. The “new economy,” revolving around the internet, has driven out many existing businesses, a trend sped up by the coronavirus.
We need a new model. What will fill the old businesses? There are many vacant buildings near the fire station. Elsewhere, we have engaged in a building spree of “multi-use” buildings, with exclusive apartments topping high-end retail spaces, many having higher rents than surrounding businesses, which were already struggling. These new high-rent retail spaces often sit empty. What are we to do? More of the same? That appears to be our direction.
Our direction requires reassessment. We need to “think outside the box.” Joe Biden has put together plans to Build Back Better, focusing on green technology at all levels, from renovating businesses with insulation, to replacing aging appliances with electric to run off a clean grid, to high-tech physics for solar.
We should join in that effort. Business parks along Agriculture Drive and Marsh Road have many empty buildings. The Agriculture Drive area was planned as an agriculture business park. But many years later, buildings sit empty, and the area is an unfocused hodgepodge.
I propose we transform that area: dovetail with the Biden team’s national effort, which will pump billions of dollars into the national economy, much centered on green technologies.
I propose that we create a East Madison Greenway in the area of Agriculture Drive and Marsh Road. This will include green technology businesses that range from trade businesses like builders and solar installers to research facilities for green physics. We should team with the University of Wisconsin with the intention to build research businesses. We should work with Habitat For Humanity and local builders to construct owner-occupied homes and condominiums within the area. We should include transportation options that do not require long commutes, as the area will be integrated. Dining and grocery options should be included as part of East Madison Greenway. This would be a transformative neighborhood that could create a model for green living and the environment.