Sunday, March 13, 2005

ANN ALTHOUSE had a post today about a proposal to build a massive new building close to the State capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin.

The Capitol building is the a landmark in Madison. It can be seen for miles around. This new building would violate the law (hmm, must need a zoning variation) that buildings within one mile of the Capitol be less than 187.2 feet tall. This new building would be 27 stories, 570 feet tall with 1.4 million sq. ft of commercial space. It would include "two hotels, 600,000 square feet of office space, 400,000 square feet of retail space, condos, a grocery, health club, perhaps a water park and 3,200 parking spaces."

This is a tough one for me. I am not much of a fan of government regulation. I like to let the market place decide as much as possible. As such, I'm not a fan of zoning laws. Of course I don't want a pesticide company to move next door or a developer to build at 10 story apartment building next door, but I think it is up to the community as private citizens to protect that without government regulation. If the Sierra Club wants to protect wetlands they should use their fundraising to buy them, not limit what other people can and cannot do with their land. There is some environmental organization that does this and if I could remember which one I'd donate. But I digress...

This colossal new building has the potential to ruin downtown Madison as it once was and is today. State street runs the length between the Capitol building at one end and about 7-8 blocks to the Bascom Hill (UW-Madison) at the other. Along the way State street if filled with odd shops, restaurants, coffee houses, bars, boutiques and other interesting shops. Building a mega mall just on the other side of the Capitol will kill it. The coffee shops might stay but a lot else will probably be put out of business much like Wal-Mart coming to town.

By intruding on the skyline and view of the Capitol it will entirely change the ascetic of Madison..for the worse.

So even though I'm not a fan of government regulation, as long as they have it I hope they stick with it and don't give this a waiver.

On the flip side, the construction of this building will employ hundreds of people..the sales taxes will benefit the town...the number of new retail jobs created will be a plus as will the income taxes on those jobs.