East side neighborhoods plan for the future

The updated neighborhood planning process for Eken Park, Emerson East and the unincorporated area of Yahara (EEEPY) is nearing its end.

Since September of 2013, a steering committee comprised of six to seven residents from the neighborhoods, with the insight of the District 2 and District 12 alders and a City of Madison planning division official, have met monthly to brainstorm development proposals for the area.

Topics the new plan will address include housing, transportation, economic development, land use and agricultural, natural and cultural resources.

The area’s last plan, implemented in 1998, featured the Emerson East and Eken Park neighborhoods. The Yahara area, located in Maple Bluff, is soon to be annexed into Madison. The 1998 plan identified 11 key issues in need of improvement. These included redevelopment of underutilized properties, additional affordable senior housing and an increase in pedestrian and bicycle safety.

According to a City of Madison’s Department of Planning and Community and Economic Development website, the document is designed to “initiate, direct and manage decisions” for the area over the next 10 years.

“The plan is a guide for policy makers, developers and others who will implement it,” Linda Horvath, Urban Planner at the City of Madison and project manager of the EEEPY planning process, said.

According to Horvath, the neighborhoods secured $145,000 of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to spend. In order to qualify for the funds, 51 percent of the residents must be of low or moderate income.

Neighborhood branding will likely be a guiding component of the new plan. This includes the potential for new neighborhood signs, fencing and area ‘beautification.’

The latest meeting, held on March 25, is one of the last until a public open house, set to be held in May.

A final steering committee meeting will follow the open house to vote on the final draft’s approval. The final draft will then go to the Common Council, likely in June, where a number of other city commissions will review the draft’s proposals for possible implementation.

“[The plan] gives the city a benchmark,” Arthur Hackett, a member of the steering committee, said.

Hackett said the purpose of the steering committee is to generate conceptual development plans. He said the committee gives the planning department “some sort of guidance in advance.”

“Some things happen really fast and not with a lot of warning,” he said. “The city doesn’t have time to run stuff past the neighborhoods.”