City residents got a chance to voice their opinions regarding the final design for Library Mall and the 700 and 800 blocks of State Street, including potential colored lights on the leaf sculpture and the location of food cart vendors, at a public meeting Thursday.
Mike Varda, chair of St. Paul’s University Catholic Center’s board said he was concerned about food cart vendors being too close to both St. Paul’s and Calvary Lutheran, as the carts would be pushed outside of the 26-foot wide pedestrian and bike path.
St. Paul’s is also in the process of gaining funds to knock down the current building and rebuild, which the city has failed to address, Varda said.
“[The city] ought to know the planning around this building coming down,” Varda said. “I’m not detecting the city’s sensitivity to what’s happening around the mall.”
Despite this criticism, city resident Rosemary Lee said small businesses like the vendors are the “backbone” of the Madison economy and should be supported as such.
The design would require vendors to position their carts away from the 26-foot walkway to avoid lines spilling out into the path, as they do now, project engineer Jason DiPiazza said.
Shane Bernau, landscape architect for Ken Saiki Design who developed the design, said the committee has looked to create a design amenable to the buildings in the area by not placing trees or other design elements in locations that would obstruct any views.
“Those views are some of my favorite views, the University Club, Pres House,” Bernau said. “We’ve tried to frame some of those views.”
Jill Sebastian, the artist who developed the sugar maple leaf sculpture to be placed in the 700 block of State Street, said her sculpture will also not inhibit any views of the University of Wisconsin campus, nearby buildings or the Capitol.
The stainless steel leaf, which would stand 30-feet tall and 30-feet wide at its widest point, would have some openings and holes, which Sebastian described as “lacy,” allowing for lighting to come through.
“It’s a focal point, but it doesn’t mean you can’t see what’s beyond it or through it. We’re really conscious about not blocking buildings,” she said.
Currently, the space does not allow for enough light with many perceiving the space as unsafe, DiPiazza said.
Not only would the leaf have some “luminous” LED lighting, with the potential to change color slowly as the seasons change, Sebastian said, accent lighting would be added under the planned seating arrangements.
Lee said the colored lighting would “cheapen” the sculpture and the atmosphere the design creates.
However, Bernau said the accent light “warms up the space a little bit and creates some nighttime interest and contributes to the perceived safety of the space.”
Sebastian said she hopes the leaf will become a social hub, just as the clock tower is today.
“It did one thing, which is, people said, ‘Meet me at the clock,’ so I now invite you to meet me at the leaf,” Sebastian said.
The committee plans to begin construction in summer 2014, pending funding and approval from the city and university.