January 1, 2007

The demand for urban de-vitalization in Madison.

The NYT has an article today about the revitalization of downtown Madison, Wisconsin and the resulting clash between affluent condo residents and the restaurant and bar owners. It seems the affluent folk don't like all the aspects of the urban life they chose. There's noise, crowding, and some alcohol-related crime. Incredibly, local politicians, including Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, now want to downsize downtown and reduce the number of bars and restaurants.
Stefanie Moritz, a retired librarian, moved with her husband from Phoenix into a downtown condominium about three years ago, drawn by pedestrian-friendly streets, a university job for her husband and the community’s progressive politics.

“We decided that we definitely wanted to live downtown, so we could get rid of one of our cars, my husband could walk to work and we could enjoy the downtown experience,” Ms. Moritz said. “The reality is a little bit different.”

She said she quickly grew irritated at being awakened at 2:30 a.m., when the noisy bar crowd usually begins to make its way home, dropping empty beer cans and other trash along the way. One morning she woke to find that garbage had been torched and the flames had charred a tree.

“I want to live downtown, but I also want a decent quality of life,” Ms. Moritz said. “And I feel that that is being denied by the present level of alcohol use.”

About 18 months ago, Ms. Moritz became active in a relatively new residents’ group, Capitol Neighborhoods, which is at the forefront of the push for stricter drinking rules.
You can't move downtown and then expect the city to cater to suburban tastes like this. Downtown is downtown because of the bars and restaurants. There should be even more of them. It should be reasonably noisy, even late at night. If people are committing crimes, it's a different matter. Let the mayor and the city council find a way to enforce the laws. And send out more street cleaners. Don't attack local business and squelch the nightlife.


Anonymous said...

“I want to live downtown, but I also want a decent quality of life,” Ms. Moritz said. “And I feel that that is being denied by the present level of alcohol use.”

How quaint. Drawn by its progressive politics she failed to find the promised land all that she expected it to be, I guess. How dare people drink! And make noise!
Look out, Ms. Moritz: I bet some second-hand smoke might be drifting your way, too!

She'll undoubtedly deny it 'til the cows come home, or Wisconsin runs out of cheese, but it seems to me that Moritz wants is a sanitized, Disneyfied downtown created especially for her private enjoyment.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to add: I can guess what's next: upstanding progressive citizens like Ms. Moritz demanding police sweeps of the poor off their streets because they violate ofalcatory senses, couched in suitably disguised and politically correct terminology lest anyone think they are the genuinely reactionary bigots that they are.

Anonymous said...

Airports get the same treatment. People buy & build near the airport because the land is cheap, then gripe about the noise reducing their property values. This has played out so often that hundreds of airports have been closed.

AJ Lynch said...

Stephanie Moritz = sourpuss control freak nimby who as IR says will next want all smoking outlawed as faraway as Chicago.

Ann not agreeing with Moritz = 1st evidence in 2007 that Ann is not a lib .

Evidence Ann may like boozing = Ann said "there should be more (bars & restaurants) donwtown.

James said...

It sounds to me that where Ms. Moritz really wants to live is in a suburb; too bad for her that her ideology won't allow her to admit this.

PatCA said...

Why, Ms. Moritz, you live in the new wonderland called "The New Urbanism." Count your blessings: In CA we would also add the "advantage" of a train station 20 feet away! Those freight trains roaring by at midnight provide added urban thrills and chills.

Palladian said...

What could be more progressive than trying to shut down businesses and force people to stop having fun?

Ann Althouse said...

To be fair, I'm sure there were other condo owners who are on Moritz's side who would seem more appealing singled out like this. I mean, why the whole retired librarian from Phoenix thing? It seems biased. I'll bet there are plenty of younger, hipper, longtime Madisonians who have expensive condos and only object really extreme drunken antics.

boston70 said...

Ann, I completely agree with your response.

I was in Madison last week for the holidays and thought there needed to be many more businesses and living options around the square. Also, there are still many vacant store fronts along the square. And how about lofts? I hardly seen any "true" loft developments-and I am not referring to ones that they build new and then call lofts. I would love to see Madison get a Nieman's, SAKS or Bloomings on the square. The city will know it has finally made it if and when that ever happens! Sad, but that's how I usually judge a city (with the exception of Dallas-it has all these stores but still sucks).

I also thought the city needed to do something about East and West Washington. Those streets could be so cool if there were lined with shops and many, many more condo's, apartments etc. There are a few new condo projects (which is great) but they need to get many more. Also, some cool street lights and sidewalks would be a great help. Both these streets lead to that beautiful capital and should be these grand boulevards leading to the capital.

I live in downtown Boston and am surrounded by all it has to offered I actually feel safe with all of the police sirens, people's voices etc. I have seen many people peeing in public-this woman needs to get over it. If it isn't something she can live with she should move out.

Street life is what gives a city character. I have traveled quite a bit on business and one of the most depressing things to see is a city shut down after 5:00. Detroit and Cleveland are like this-their ghost towns.

Do some of these Madison residents realize that other cities are pulling their teeth out to get residents to return to "downtown".

As far the lady Phoenix if it is not her cup of tea she can move to Verona. I have this picture of this lady looking out of her downtown apartment window and watching for any type of infractions that she can report.
People choose to live "downtown" for access to all downtown offers

boston70 said...

I don't know if Madison does this but it also needs to offer a certain percentage of housing for artists, different income levels etc. If Madison loses these residents downtown it loses it's character.

Downtown will become a city for the rich and students if this happens. They may both be "progressive" but they are very different groups of people.

Unfortunately, Boston has become that way because no one else can afford to live in downtown anymore. $700,000 for a 1 bedroom 800 square foot condo is not appealing to many people.

Also, Boston just recorded the highest price for a parking space-$250,000. The space isn't even a garage, it is a small space behind a brownstone building.

Fortunately, when I was in Madison it wasn't a problem to park anywhere downtown.

downtownlad said...

Unfortunately, this is not just happening in Madison. In New York, they are now actively denying liquor licenses to high quality establishments. In Soho, they denied a liquor license to a jazz club Lola, most likely because the owner was black. In the East Village, the gastropub E.U. was denied a license for almost a year. And they are trying to crack down on new bars in the Lower East Side.

What is wrong with these people? If you don't like it - don't live here.

Unfortunately, the evil side will probably win, because the good people who like bars and drinking are not organized.

MadisonMan said...

I love that the NYTimes always prints the way to pronounce Cieslewicz.

Like others, I wonder what the retired librarian expects at night in the middle of a city. Complete Quiet? What kind of city is that?

Ann Althouse said...

Boston: There used to be shops around the square, but the retail business died as it migrated out to various malls, I think. The current revival is based on condos and bars and restaurants and caf├ęs... and the Overture Center (which I hope you saw). Maybe there are enough people there now that more stores could do well.

They are building a lot on West Washington, and State Street is quite built up, but you are definitely right about East Washington. There is so much room to build there.

JDM said...

"Unfortunately, the evil side will probably win, because the good people who like bars and drinking are not organized."

Best comment ever. Well said DTL.

nypundit said...

downtownlad is there any proof that race was involved in denying the license? Knowing the Bloomberg admininstration I wouldn't be shocked that they denied the license because they wanted to have smoking or were cooking food with trans-fats in it.

James Wigderson said...

Then there's the opposite: city folk moving to the country and then objecting to the sounds of roosters, the smell of fertilizer and the run down look of the farm next door.

downtownlad said...

Well the owner of the bar thinks it is racism.


I believe her, since this is the only case I know of in Soho where such a major effort was made to stop the granting of a liquor license.

The Drill SGT said...

This interaction during "gentrification
occurs in most cities lucky enough to get some revitalization. What is missing in Madison is any racial aspect. Every other place in the country your NYT could run alternating stories about how:

1. city neighborhoods getting run down, white flight, drugs and blacks moving in,

2. Lack of tax base causing your generic city to cut services, spiral into poverty and fleeing taxpayers.

3. gentrification of a section displaces the poor and rises in property values is a hardship for the poor Black grandmother (BTW, she now wealthy if she sells)

4. newly arrived whites alternately want to restrict others from moving in, "to retain the unique ambiance of the neighborhood" and want the bars , strip malls and porn shops to close.

Ron said...

Doesn't it seem that there is too much emphasis on restaurants and bars and condos, and not enough on interesting non-chain store retail? This same illness plagues Ann Arbor as well...

Bissage said...

There are many things of which I am completely ignorant. For example, I thought retired people moved to the city only so they could be closer to their many doctors. That’s the way it used to be in Philadelphia, anyway.

Still, I’ve got too much German blood in me and I stubbornly refuse to believe that this Ms. Moritz person is so completely stupid as the things she allegedly says. There must be some talent agency or something that provides under-employed actors to talk to newspaper reporters to say the things the reporters are assigned to write about. You know, sort of like expert witnesses for trial.

Anyway, I moved out of the city a long time ago. Too much noise and crime.


Anonymous said...

Ann: I can believe that she was chosen because she presented such an easy target. And I am sure that many condo owners of all political stripes agree with her.

As someone already noted, it really is reminiscent of people who buy housees next to airports and then complain loudly about the noise. Well, really now, what did they expect?

BTW, I believe that Portland, Oregon has been pretty successful at finding the magic formula to keep businesses operating in the downtown area, although not necessarily the businesses that were ther originally.

James Wigderson is right about the flip side: people who move to the country and complain about the deer, the cows, the skunks, the fertilizer, whatever. A lot of them are my neighbors, as I live in an urbanizing rural area.

Anyone interested in an entertaining record of that phenomenon might want to check out Barbara Holland's Bingo Night at the Fire Hall. At times both hilarious and poignant, Holland recounts the ongoing changes in Loudoun County, Virginia. Holland has a sharp eye, and a sharp wit.

Palladian said...

DTL, weren't you once, during one of your episodes, ranting about the "Bridge and Tunnel" straight people who come and mess up your gay paradise by drinking and making noise? If so, it's a strange change of heart.

Anyway, I hate social people who go out and drink, but I encourage it because it gives them more of a chance to get hit by trucks or get cirrhosis of the liver or whatnot. The thing that really ruined the streets of New York is the ridiculous smoking ban. Now, the streets are filled with loud, stupid drunk people standing outside bars, belching carcinogenic clouds and blocking the sidewalks. Nice move, Nanny Bloomberg!

paul a'barge said...

Austin, Texas: Same thing, only the difference is ... East Austin, traditionally poor, gritty or hip. The city closes the airport and moves it away from the eastside inner city neighborhoods. Here come the yuppies.

All of a sudden, they're calling the police on their neighbors, who have been having modest parties with live music for years.

Guess what? The cops come, the yuppies win, and those who have become enchanted with the East Austin freedoms, willing to tolerate the city's traditional neglect of East Austin are now moving, looking for other undiscovered neighborhoods.

You can't win this one, Madison. The yuppies always get what they want. Things just work that way.

Sorry to hear about it.

paul a'barge said...

In Soho, they denied a liquor license to a jazz club Lola, most likely because the owner was black

Oh year, baby. the ultimate urban myth. NYC, the land of Al Sharpton and the most bitterly bigotry inculcated in the city's council, is biased against ... blacks.

Downtownlad takes naps with his head snuggled between two large magnets.

Elizabeth said...

This started happening in New Orleans, particularly in the French Quarter and Faubourg Marigny (a neighborhood adjacent to the Quarter). Rich people moved into the Pontalba Apartments (America's first apartment buildings) that overlook Jackson Square and got all bent out of shape because they suddenly noticed that there are people playing music in the Square! Yes, they came here for the atmosphere then promptly tried to shut down what makes New Orleans atmospheric.

nina said...

Why didn't the NYT interview me??? I moved to downtown Madison for the noise, the bars and restaurants and find that there aren't enough.

Of a kind.

Madison's downtown is often taken over by sports events (at the Kohl's Center, for example) and delirious college age drinking. Often the two are intertwined. I don't exactly hate this, but I don't call it "urban living."

Before moving to Madison I only lived in large cities. I tried the quiet of the Madison suburbs (a different quiet than what you find in the countryside) and I ran from it. But I haven't found that downtown offers what I left behind in cities I had lived in. The hope is that those of us who have come back will demand more, not less of city life.

Kev said...

PatCA:"Why, Ms. Moritz, you live in the new wonderland called "The New Urbanism." "

I posted on this subject a few days ago, along with the story about how Storrs, CT is trying to create a college town from scratch around UConn. A lot of suburbs here in Dallas/Ft. Worth are creating either new or satellite downtowns using the New Urban style.

You could call them Disney-fied, but a lot of people probably like the urban feel without quite so much of the accompanying "grit" (which I define as "not having to step in bodily fluids or constantly worry about getting mugged). That being said, if I moved near a bar area, I would take steps myself to drown out the noise rather than expect others to accommodate me.

MadisonMan: "Like others, I wonder what the retired librarian expects at night in the middle of a city. Complete Quiet?"

Well, if we're going to play into the whole "Shhh!" stereotype of the librarian and all. Anyone want to bet that she wears half-glasses on her nose too? ;-)

Ruth Anne Adams said...

How do you feel now about your former plans to move to said area?

Cat said...

I sympathize. I hate the noise in my urban environment - drunks especially...I once had to call the police because I couldn't get into my building due to a crazy naked guy standing in front of my door in below zero weather doing "martial arts."

I don't try to close down the bars, I decide to move....until I remember how cheap my apartment is compared to others in quieter areas. That's the trade off.

I buy "Macks" silicone ear plugs at night. Works great. Now I rarely wake when glass is shattering in the middle of the night!

Lars said...

You can gentrify E. Wash, just don't mess with Willy St.

Lars said...

You can gentrify E. Wash, just don't mess with Willy St.

Lars said...

You can gentrify E. Wash, just don't mess with Willy St

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the folks who move to the new developments carved out of a sold-off farm. They want to escape to the country for the peace and quiet forgetting about the working farm next door. Then in spring they bitch about the smell of manure spread on the fields and in the fall about the long hours the farmer works harvesting his crop.

Folks need to do their research before they make the move. If you can't live there--don't.

cokaygne said...

If smoking is not allowed in bars and restaurants are not allowed to serve food containing transfats, why not ban bars from serving drinks containing alcohol? Is that not the logic of liberalism? Otherwise, why not lower the drinking age to 18 or raise it to 25? I suppose about half of college kids are under 21 and they find few places on or off campus to drink with their peers. Or why not legalize the sale and consumption of intoxicants other than alcohol, which seems to engender violence?

This problem will grow as baby-boomers retire. Suburban houses bought in the 1970s or 1980s have quadrupled or quintupled in value. The proceeds from selling the suburban house now to big to care for allows the retired couple to easily buy a condo or some rural acreage. For cities, turning abandoned factories or department stores into condos is a good deal because they gain taxpayers and residents who demand few expensive services such as education.

We retired a few years ago and thought about moving to a college town for the cultural amenities but were turned off by the realizaion that the cultural amenities most favored by college kids are bars. So we moved to a small resort town which has cultural amenities in the summer. There is a drinking problem down town, but one can buy a nice house a few miles away. In rural areas there is another problem. People put in fancy gardens. These gardens attract deer the way bars attract college kids. People don't like deer eating their flowers and they don't like striking deer as they drive at high speeds along country roads. Enter a struggle over hunting.

Face it, old people want tranquility and they've got the money and political influence to buy it. The mayor probably figured out that Ms. Moritz and her neighbors vote and pay taxes and the college kids don't. Liberalism always means having your cake and making others eat it.

hygate said...

This started happening in New Orleans, particularly in the French Quarter and Faubourg Marigny

At least there is some hope that the party poopers won't succeed in New Orleans. That guy on top of a eight foot unicycle, juggling knives and the trio of elderly African-American musicians playing the Blues a little further down the street may not have much political power. However, they are a large part of the reason why the tourists that New Orleans depends on for revenue come to the city. What's next, buying cheap apartments over t-shirt shops on Bourbon and then complaining about the noise and light?

Anonymous said...

And in line with people moving to rural areas and then complaining, we also have people building big new homes and then getting angry when anyone else is granted a permit to do the same thing. It seems that their argument is that lots of undeveloped land around their house is good for property values. But, once I've built my McMansion you better not let anyone else move out here. You'll spoil this rural area!

Drives me batty.

Pogo said...

The organic nature of cities is difficult for many to bear. The desire to perfect and control overrides the promise of liberty. As a result, residents intent on creating a certain atmosphere do so by political means, taking control of the most boring and most powerful aspect of city government: the zoning decisions.

Sometimes the results work, but sometimes they fail, as new rules chase tenants away and the ambiance declines.

Far better were it to be that nuisance lawsuits were more widespread. Bars that discharge the noisy and fighting drunk should be accountable for their damages. The individuals fighting and pissing and breaking stuff should be held not just criminally but civilly liable.

Robust property rights would serve the librarians interests far more than the fleeting political victories of zoning. More often than not, these victors get tired of fighting the good fight, and move away. Some permanence is gained when property is sacrosanct. Not so with politics, which masters only the moment.

hygate said...

Having just re-read my previous post, I want to stress that only knives are being juggled, not the musicians.

Anonymous said...

I was surprised after having been away from Madison for quite a while after 1985 that the State Street/Cap Square area had become more run-down. I think the early 1980s were sort of a revitalization; they brought in some chain stores and restaurants but kept a lot of the local (The Pub, State Street Brats nee, The Brathouse).

That area is a little weird because it's sort of typical downtown, but also has the university right next door. Any university town will have a lot of bars nearby, which the people in question should have known about. I certainly wouldn't want to live in downtown at this stage in my life, though as an undergrad it was something close to heaven (especially since the drinking age then was 18).

As everywhere else, we here in the Pacific NW get the same sort of thing. Here, we get developments at the edge of true wilderness areas up in the mountains, and who pays the price? The wildlife that finds their habitat encroached upon by people with defenseless little dogs and cats that make easy prey.

Anonymous said...

I lived downtown from 1996 to 1998. On North Hamilton above and to the north of Bucks. The building is gone now, I think... at least Bucks and the parking lot is.

My wife was in graduate school and I was just trying to find work I wanted to do. The apartment was nice for the price - bigger than most other student-oriented housing we found. I loved being downtown. I disliked our student neighbors who occassionally partied with no respect for their neighbors. I really disliked Bucks' customers who took my parking space and vomited on the apartment stoop.

I can't understand how people tied to the University professionally don't understand that proximity to it also comes with drunk students and their vandalism. Nor do I understand how one chooses to live downtown and not expect loudness and activity at all hours.

There's some sort of disconnect there. It would be like me expecting my surburb to have a shopping center, 20 restaurants, and everything else I'd want within walking distance. Oh - and that whiff of cows I get every now and then - the village board really has to do something about that.