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Historic Preservation Plan input

The city gathered input for the historic preservation plan during a recent Cap Times Talk at the Goodman Center. 

Madison planner Bill Fruhling hopes the city’s first ever historic preservation plan will expand how Madison residents define historic preservation in the community in order to reflect the city’s collective history.  

“For so long, the term historic preservation just brings up images of big mansions, ornate buildings, buildings associated with having some connection to some of the city’s founders,” Fruhling said.

The Historic Preservation Plan seeks to provide a framework for future preservation that goes beyond the city’s current regulatory role. It will recommend strategies to more effectively integrate historic preservation in public policy and in addition. Madison’s ordinance standards for five local historic districts will also be updated throughout the process.   

Early on, the Historic Preservation Plan Advisory Committee drafted four values to guide the plan. The first, in part, was valuing the preservation of places that are significant in representing  the histories of underrepresented communities.

Fruhling said community input sessions also highlighted the need to promote these histories.

“Knowing what those stories are and seeing the places throughout the city that are associated with those really help make people connected to where they live and feel a part of a bigger community,” Fruhling said.

However, he said it has been difficult challenging members of the public to think of buildings and places in the city that have played an important role in their histories. There is a tendency to overlook buildings that are not “architectural gems,” he said.

“Some of the reluctance is really that a lot of the places that are maybe important to people, they’re gathering places in the community or they’re longterm businesses or establishments,” Fruhling explained. “They may not be the most ornate architecturally in the community, they may be more simple structures, but they've come to have meaning within certain groups of the community.”

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Advisory committee members will be discussing strategy priorities at their meeting Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in room 207 of the Madison Municipal Building, 215 Martin Luther King Jr., Blvd.  

High ranking strategy priorities currently include installing Native American plaques on existing and lost buildings and sites and storytelling plaques on cultural and historical buildings and sites.

Other high ranking priorities include radio talk shows and podcasts in different languages to celebrate social history, exhibits of lost buildings and significant structures, historic preservation social media and dedicating demolition permit fees to fund programs related to historic preservation.  

The end result will be a plan that identifies the preservation priorities of the city moving forward and a strategy to accomplish that in a “comprehensive holistic approach.”

Fruhling expects a completed draft in the spring of 2019.

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

Abigail Becker joined The Capital Times in 2016, where she primarily covers city and county government. She previously worked for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the Wisconsin State Journal.