With the recent upheaval of Library Mall and Bascom Hill, it has become increasingly apparent that University of Wisconsin’s campus only has two seasons: winter and construction.
Shovels hit the ground this May for the renovation of Library Mall and State Street Mall and construction should be wrapped up near the end of October, Chris Petykowski, the project manager, said.
Before the current project, the area in between the Wisconsin Historical Society and Memorial Library had been undergoing utilities renovation since fall of 2012. For most undergraduate students currently at the University of Wisconsin, construction in that area has become a familiar sight.
As both the city of Madison and the UW campus have grown, Library Mall and State Street areas have transformed over time.
The area, originally called “Lower Campus” when it was first introduced in 1891, was once a green space used for military drill practices, football games and baseball games in the early 1900s. It eventually turned into “Library Mall” when the Historical Society and Memorial Library were built on each side of it, Gary Brown, a Campus Planning and Landscape Architecture architect, said.
Any athletic use of the area was officially eliminated in 1946, after complaints at the Wisconsin Historical Society of “loud, frequent cheering,” according to the Library Mall Cultural Landscape Inventory. Then Memorial Library opened in 1953, completing the east edge of the area.
In the 1970s, the 700 block of State Street still operated as a two-lane street. By the mid-1970s, the national movement to create pedestrian malls in downtown cities came to Madison, and State Street Mall began.
Not much changed in the area until the current construction projects. The general concept of the “malls” remains the same, but two historic pieces of previous designs that are gone as of this summer are the tall-standing four-sided clock and the concrete pulpit, Petykowski said.
The area under construction is a center point of many UW icons like State Street, Memorial Library, the Historical Society, the Humanities Building and Bascom Hill. It actively functions as both a “pass thru” and a “destination,” according to the city of Madison’s final design for the project.
A giant maple leaf sculpture designed by Jill Sebastian will be added to the landscape, Petykowski said. Sebastian is an artist who has been heavily involved in design work all along State Street, he added.
The two blocks designated for the food carts influence the design for the area, Petykowski said, noting that the redesign will make it more convenient for the businesses to operate, as well as provide more room for long lines. Until the projects are done, the food carts remain spread out on State Street, Frances Street and East Campus Mall, he said.
Petykowski said the project is essentially a rebuilding process of the sidewalks, planters and seating areas.
“There are more places to sit and eat lunch, or study or just enjoy the space,” he said.
Planters with both single and double tier wall seating will be added to accommodate gathering areas or meeting places, Petykowski said. He said pedestrian level lighting will be added, as well as under lighting on benches to provide more of a “soft glow” rather then “harsh overhead light.”
Other features include a drinking fountain and a pair of tower viewer coin-operated binoculars, he said.
A staircase will also be added at the bottom of Bascom Hill, so students can walk straight from the end of State Street Mall up the hill, Brown said.
Construction is not expected to block traffic on Park Street when school starts. However, construction on the Bascom Hill staircase should remain in progress until mid-September, Brown said.