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Near West District Recommendations

see also: Near West District - Near West District Findings

Summary of Findings

The Near West district performs strongly in the categories of transit service and sidewalks and, by a slim margin, it exceeds the open space standard of ten acres per 1,000 residents. Like most other districts, the Near West has room for improvement in achieving standards for community gardens, street trees, and impervious coverage. Due in part to the University of Wisconsin campus and some of the City's older, higher-density developments, the Near West is second only to the Isthmus in terms of its walkability and transit service. On the other hand, this density makes it more challenging to find opportunities for new public open spaces and community gardens.

Green Space

At 12 acres per 1000 residents, the Near West district exceeds the public open space standard of ten acres per 1000 residents. Still, of the six districts, it ranks fifth, ahead of the Isthmus, which has 5.8 acres of open space per 1000 residents. The Near West is far behind the fourth place East district, which has 42.1 acres per 1000 residents. Much of this disparity can be attributed to the older, denser developments found in the district. The Near West has only two community garden sites, leaving it well below the standard of one site per 2,000 residents, with a deficit of 19 sites. The Near West is not alone in falling short of the community garden standard, as even districts on the City's edge face deficits. The West has only four gardens and a deficit of 21 sites. The South district, which is closest to achieving the standard, has six sites, falling short by one.

Natural Areas

The Near West district contains 408 acres of natural areas (302 of which are public), but none of this space has been designated as a conservation park. Because it was one of the earliest sections of Madison to develop, the prospects of creating a conservation park in the district are quite low. The Near West's natural areas place it fifth out of the six districts, ahead of the Isthmus. Of the 408 acres, 387 are forested, and 281 acres out of these 387 are public. The largest forested areas are the University's Picnic Point area and land owned by the City adjacent to the Glenway Golf Course.

Climate Change

Eighty-six percent of the Near West's streets have trees, second only to the West's 87%; the performance standard for this attribute is 100% coverage. Several of the major streets in the Near West District lack street tree coverage, a deficiency that impacts local climate, stormwater, and the aesthetic quality of the district. Portions of University Avenue, Highland Avenue, Speedway Road, and Mineral Point Road are streets on which the tree deficit can be addressed. Science Drive in University Research Park and several streets running through the University campus are also currently without trees.

Pedestrian friendliness and access to transit are important to the climate goal. About 82% of the Near West district has residential sidewalks, behind only the Isthmus district, which has 99% sidewalk coverage. The standard of providing 95% of residential parcels with sidewalks is a reasonable target for the Near West, which needs an increase of only 13%. Ninety-nine percent of the Near West's blocks are within 1/4 mile of a transit stop, placing the district, once again, second only to the Isthmus. While service might be adjusted slightly to increase transit use in the district, the overall coverage service in the Near West is excellent.

Stormwater

The Near West district has 1,773 acres of impervious coverage, representing approximately 37% of the total district area. If sidewalk coverage were increased to the 95% standard for residential parcels, 13 acres of additional impervious coverage would be added. Currently, 785 acres of the impervious coverage (44%) are commercial, 472 acres (27%) are residential, and 516 acres (29%) are streets. The totals for commercial and residential include parking areas, driveways, sidewalks, and building footprints. The district is second only to the Isthmus in terms of impervious coverage as a percentage of district area. Three different standards for impervious coverage maximums were applied according to each district's density; while the high density standard of 50% was applied to the Isthmus, the medium density standard of 30% was applied to the Near West. The 20%, low density standard was applied to all other districts. With these guidelines, the Near West requires the greatest reduction (in terms of percentage of district area) in impervious coverage in order to meet its standard. In order to achieve this 39% to 30% reduction, 443 acres need to be converted to pervious coverage.

Recommendations

Recommendations by Goal

Green Space

Natural Areas

Climate Change

Stormwater

Conclusion

Improving the ecological performance of the Near West district can build upon its strengths as one of the more historic, densely-populated parts of Madison. While opportunities for new natural areas and community gardens are limited because of this density, there is high potential for reducing auto-dependency through enhanced pedestrian friendliness and expanded transportation alternatives. The district is also fortunate to have some key green spaces, such as those associated with the University of Wisconsin campus. By adopting some of these recommendations to improve ecological performance, the Near West can reinforce its integral role in the City of Madison as a cultural center and an attractive place to live and work.