Approximately 59 percent of survey respondents would support turning the 100 block of State Street into a pedestrian mall, according to a survey conducted by the State Street Design Project Oversight Committee.
However, that support was not reflected in the committee’s meeting Monday night. Nine people came to the meeting to speak in opposition to the mall, with one attendee in support of the mall. Those opposed were primarily business and property owners on the 100 block of State Street.
City planner Bill Fruhling acknowledged his surprise by the survey results at the meeting. He said he participated in an informal survey last summer asking property owners what they thought of closing the block to traffic, and virtually all of the owners did not think it would be beneficial to their business or to State Street. The survey indicated that business owners supported the mall at a ratio of two to one.
Dan Milsted, owner of the real-estate and home-repair business Milsted Enterprises at 106 W. Mifflin St., said all but one of the State Street business owners he talked to did not approve of the pedestrian mall.
“Making the mall will kill our business,” Milsted said.
Fruhling said his informal survey indicated “very similar” results. He did not know how to explain the discrepancy but said the online survey did not track the respondents’ identities in order to make it as accessible to the public as possible, leaving the possibility that one respondent could fill out the survey multiple times.
The State Street Design Project committee originally recommended against a pedestrian mall on the block but set up the survey to study the idea after pressure from another committee.
“In October the State Street Oversight Committee jumped in and wanted more information because they said we didn’t take into account enough of the advantages of doing it and they wanted more input,” Fruhling said.
He said the survey had a low return rate of 174 respondents.
Michelangelo’s owner Sam Chehade said he opposed closing off State Street’s 100 block for pedestrians because it would detract from the “urban feel” of the street, raise property taxes and create street-access problems for firefighters and police officers.
Madison resident Michael Hess, the lone supporter of the mall present at the meeting, said the mall could “breathe life” into the street with the absence of noisy buses and traffic on the block.
In other business, the committee discussed the final bus-shelter design chosen by the city. The projected cost of the design is $34,000 for each shelter, made from stainless steel. The city jury chose the design unanimously after strong public support for the particular design.
Committee members also noted that the State Street redesign options were nearly completed outside of the Lisa Link Peace Park. The wrong light bulbs were installed in the streetlights; they will be replaced with frosted bulbs soon. The frosted bulbs would reduce the glare in the current lights on display.