Parking issues — and its effect on traffic, development and commuter rail — continue to drive Madison residents’ concerns about a proposed 17.5-acre mixed-use development.
Madison-based Erdman Holdings Inc. held an informational meeting Thursday night for the Spring Harbor Neighborhood Association for its proposed development at the corner of Whitney Way and University Avenue. Erdman proposes a multi-phased development that would include 11 new buildings and three parking ramps in addition to many surface parking lots.
“I think they’re doing a development that’s very heavily into parking ramps,” said Tom Jeffries, a resident of the Spring Harbor neighborhood. “I think that’s going to create a lot more congestion.”
Frank Miller, the project’s architect, told residents concerned about the amount of parking that plans were still conceptual. However, he said the early designs include enough parking to meet demands for the number of buildings that will be in the development, including the six-story building already on site that houses the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.
Erdman wants the city to approve a general development plan by fall and could sell land to have the first of 11 new buildings under construction by next summer.
But Jeffries said besides the number of parking garages in the plan, the placement also troubled him.
Erdman proposes one of the parking garages to be built behind the PSC building and along rail tracks that could someday prompt a commuter rail stop at the development.
“It’s an obvious space for a station,” he said. “You could get off the train there and you could have cafes and retail space, but as it’s proposed it would just be a wall.”
Miller said Erdman would welcome the opportunity to develop a commuter rail stop as part of the project.
The problem, he said, is that the company has no clear indication there will ever be one needed.
“If the city or the regional transit authority would say, ‘This is going to happen,’ then we would be open to it,” he said. “The problem is we’re getting very mixed messages. We’re not going to design and get way ahead of the city and the RTA and do it.”
Alderman Mark Clear, who represents the district, said planners of the commuter rail stop might instead look to the nearby Hilldale Mall area for a stop with easily-accessible retail if a parking garage is built at the Erdman site.
But Clear said it’s too soon to start talking about commuter rail stops.
“The RTA doesn’t really exist yet,” he said. “It does on paper, and we’ve got the volunteer members, but there’s no staff, no resources and no money. And until there’s a referendum to get that, it’s just going to be a wait.”
Erdman will perform studies in the coming months to better determine traffic needs and whether all the parking space provided will be needed, Miller said. Those figures should help give residents a better idea of the plan.
“If we can get a concept that the neighborhood seems comfortable with,” he said, “then we’re going to take the next steps for development.”