Mifflin Street porches

Houses featuring front porches, such as this house, are a defining characteristic of Mifflin Street. The West Mifflin Street / West Washington Avenue Area Plan will analyze the 400 and 500 blocks of the streets. 

When Madison residents think of Mifflin Street, a distinct sense of place immediately comes to mind: the annual and infamous block party, the houses' signature front porches or the gone but not forgotten Mifflin Street Co-op.

The street's lore also captures the imagination of college students coming to Madison for the first time and conjures memories of the neighborhood's role in activism of the Vietnam War era.

“Those attachments are strong,” said Rebecca Cnare, an urban planner with the city.

But Madison is changing, and the city needs to plan for anticipated growth. Between now and 2040, city officials estimate 70,000 new residents will move to the city and 40,000 new housing units will be needed to accommodate them, according to the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

The West Mifflin / West Washington Area Plan will analyze a small area centered on the 400 and 500 blocks of West Mifflin Street and West Washington Avenue.

West Mifflin / West Washington plan area aerial

The West Mifflin / West Washington Area Plan will analyze a small area centered on the 400 and 500 blocks of West Mifflin Street and West Washington Avenue.

It is unusual for the city to analyze a small area, Cnare said. With the downtown to the east, the university to the north and the hospital corridor down south Park Street, the West Mifflin and West Washington area is a “hole in the doughnut.”

“It’s this kind of pocket that’s surrounded, and we want to make sure we’re thinking about it right,” Cnare said. 

Cnare said the goal of the planning process will be to “provide a vision” for how the area will change.

The 2012 Downtown Plan, which called for the area plan, set parameters for the area and broadly recommended building and streetscape design that “help create a distinctive urban character and sense of place.” However, the “Mifflandia” planning process will result in more detailed recommendations.

“This plan is going to be less about whether or not change is going to come, but how it’s going to come,” Cnare said.

Improving the converted backyard parking lots is one characteristic of the neighborhood Cnare would like to see improved. 

Once finalized, the plan will guide future development in the area. Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said developers have been frustrated over the years when the city put their proposals on hold due to the lack of an area plan.

Verveer said he would like to see many of neighborhood's attributes, including wide terraces, front porches, large canopy trees and open spaces maintained, which can be difficult when developers want to increase density to get the most "bang for their buck." 

"One of the reasons why I think folks choose to live in the neighborhood, not only UW students but young professionals, is not just the affordability but the attractiveness of living in a house rather than a large, multi-family apartment building," Verveer said. 

Mifflandia logo

Rebecca Cnare, an urban design planner with the city, said she hopes the tongue-in-cheek name of the plan, Mifflandia, will connect with residents.

Miffland Neighborhood chair Tim Kamps said he hopes the plan addresses a range of issues important to the neighborhood including undergrounding utilities, preserving the tree canopy, increasing green space and keeping housing affordable. Kamps also recognized the tension between preserving character and making improvements to the area.

"All of downtown is really undergoing a transformation right now," Kamps said. "It’s a balance of how do you maintain that sense of place … even as new construction continues to fill in. I think changing character of neighborhoods can be a net positive, but we also want to preserve and maintain the historic sense of place." 

The planning process will involve a unique public engagement process, taking cues from the “Imagine Madison” public input campaign that informed the city’s comprehensive plan. Cnare said the city will work with an artist to create partnerships in the community and encourage people to offer feedback.

Though the planning process will make specific recommendations on height limits and building materials, she wants people to reflect on how they want to live in their neighborhood.

“It’s about trying to have people connect with place,” Cnare said.

The plan will also address land use, preservation, redevelopment opportunities, building and streetscape design, open space, activity nodes and connectivity to the adjacent neighborhoods.

The city will be hosting two business and property owner roundtable sessions ahead of the plan’s kick off meeting Oct. 29. The roundtables will be held on Oct. 15 from 2:30 to 4 p.m. and on Oct. 16 from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Both meetings will be located in room 207 of the Madison Municipal Building, 215 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

The kickoff meeting will be held Oct. 29 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Madison Senior Center, 330 West Mifflin Street.

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