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'Imagine Madison'

Ball State students see Madison
as a city of future innovation

Many ideas for city improvement
were generated in study

By Laura Hodges
Contributing Writer

(August 2011) – For the past few months, Ball State University students from the College of Architecture and Planning have been inviting residents to “Imagine Madison” with innovative new features. These are recommendations to the City of Madison stemming from several weeks of study and questionnaires.
Among the ideas:
• A permanent stage at Madison Bicentennial Park made from steel salvaged from the Madison-Milton Bridge;
• Gateway arches at Madison’s city limits;
• A water taxi that uses gravity, water weight and human weight to pull a passenger car up and down the Madison railroad incline.

Riverfront rendition

Rendition provided

A rendition of a
future riverwalk is
among the ideas
created in a Ball State
University “Imagine
Madison” project.

The visioning process culminated with a public presentation July 18 at the West Street Art Gallery. Residents were invited to view drawings and hear explanations about dozens of ideas the students proposed to solve Madison’s challenges in the areas of sustainability, redevelopment, transportation, corridors, tourism and economic development.
Scott Truex, a Ball State faculty adviser for the project, began the meeting by saying, “Our purpose is to stir things up, get you motivated. The main focus is, we’re really committed to improving the quality of life in the communities we work in.”
He said even real estate developers have started focusing on “places” rather than “location, location, location.”
“Madison is already a ‘place,’ ” said Truex. “Madison has such a rich character. I think you are one of the gems of Madison.”
Sixty-three community members attended the presentation.
“I was very pleased with the attendance, the questions and the interest by the community, as well as the presentations by the students,” said Rhonda Deeg, who volunteers with Madison’s Main Street Program. “I thought they were excellent opportunities and options that Main Street Program can now look at and prioritize.”
She added that the presentation was filmed by Channel 15. It will be aired from time to time, and the DVD will be available at $10.
Many of the ideas described by the Ball State students involved additional improvements to Madison’s riverfront. Kyle VanKlompenburg envisioned stadium seating facing the water, for better viewing of the Regatta and other events.
The bank itself could be terraced, with water-loving plants on each level and places for campgrounds. An anchored riverboat could provide space for a museum. Recycled steel from the Ohio River bridge could be fashioned into a permanent stage at Bicentennial Park.
“It would become your identity,” added VanKlompenburg.
He also described a skate park for young people, as well as a children’s fountain, miniature golf and a Frisbee golf course. He suggested a sidewalk on the north side of Vaughn Drive and additional landscaping. A sculpture at the foot of Jefferson Street could entice people from Main Street to come toward the riverfront.
VanKlompenburg also presented a suggestion for the former Elks Lodge on West Street. The idea is to stabilize the outside walls of the structure, but not to roof it. The interior could be used for open-air dining. “It saves the facade of the building,” he said.
Beth Resler spoke on re-use of the King’s Daughters’ Hospital & Health Services campus, which will be partially vacated when the new hospital, now under construction, opens on the Madison hilltop in 2012. She suggested a veterans’ hospital or an Alzheimer’s research facility. The students thought medical use would be the least costly solution because it would require less remodeling. Other uses might be a business incubator or an artist colony. Another student, Rex Ramage, mentioned that the site could become a transportation hub or a hotel complex.
Resler also talked about options for gateway signage at the points where travelers enter Madison. She talked about the possibilities of sprucing up Madison’s alleys with art installations and enhanced lighting.
Ramage described a “Green and Gold Corridor” for Madison’s senior citizens as “a safe environment for them to move around the city.” It would encompass several streets and sidewalks in downtown Madison.
Ramage also discussed a permanent trolley route for visitors that would link Clifty Falls State Park and the downtown.
Dillivan focused on transportation. He proposed a bus loop including the downtown and hilltop commercial districts. He suggested that heavy truck traffic be rerouted to Clifty Drive and U.S. 421, to relieve traffic on Main Street.
There was also a proposal to eliminate the left turn at Second Street for cars and trucks leaving the Madison-Milton Bridge. The suggestion is to extend Harrison Street directly to Main Street. Dillivan said this would displace only three properties. If the slope can begin as far south as Adams, the grade to reach Main Street could be held to 3.6 percent, he said.
Surveyed residents said they would like to see a parking garage in downtown Madison. The students identified a couple of sites that could contain a multi-level garage of 25,000 square feet or more. They cautioned that the building would have to fit in with the prevailing architecture of the area. One drawing showed a building with retail at ground level and two levels of parking above it.
Several options for Main Street parking were presented, if it could be changed from a state highway to a locally controlled street.
“Historically, Madison had angled parking on Main Street,” said Dillivan. Some of the options included bike lanes, enhanced crosswalks and additional landscaping.
Meagan Tuttle suggested that one block of downtown, bounded by Main Street, West Street, Second Street and Mulberry Street, be designated a “Green Block.” “The ultimate goal for the block was to strive for energy independence, meaning the businesses and residences along the block would generate energy from non-coal sources and reduce waste,” said a handout.
Nathan Montoya and Anne Vestuto, owners of Village Lights Bookstore in that block, are excited about the prospect. “We would love to implement anything and everything. It’s a question of how and of course the affordability,” said Montoya. He said his first project is likely to be historically compliant storm windows, which decrease energy use and reduce noise. He is also considering a rain-water collection system, roof plantings and solar panels. “We’d love to see our electric meter spin backwards,” he said.
Tuttle presented the idea of a water taxi to traverse Madison’s famous inclined railroad cut. Members of the audience seemed intrigued and asked for more information. The system would consist of two cars, which would be on opposite ends of a pulley system. The north end would be at Johnson Lake, where a tank in one car would be filled with water. At the same time, the car at the south end would empty its water into the Ohio River. Gravity would pull the heavy car slowly down the hill as the lighter car ascends.
Truex said the idea comes from Scotland, where it is a “huge tourist attraction.”
“You have ancestors in this community who did these kind of things, like grist mills. That’s consistent with your heritage. You’re going to make new history of what Madison can be,” said Truex.
Near the end of the presentation, Truex said drawings and explanations will be put in a final report and posted on the website, www.imaginemadison.org. “Our process is not complete,” he said. “It needs to become a conversation.”
Truex said he will meet with the local steering committee, which includes Camille Fife, Dan Baughman, Dave Adams, Dee Comstock, Jim Lee, Jan Vetrhus, Jim Pruett, John Bruns, Karla Gauger, Kathie Petkovic, Larry Folkner, Larry Newhouse, Leticia Bajuyo, Linda Lytle, Lucy Dattilo, Nadja Boone, Peter Ellis, Rhonda Deeg, Beth Black, Robyn Ryle, Terry Smith and Tony Ratcliff.

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