The Philosopher’s Grove at the Capitol end of State Street may see significant changes next year in an effort to reduce crime in the area.
Rebecca Cnare, the urban design planner for the City of Madison, said the problems at Philosopher’s Grove are just the latest iteration following city redesigns that have ended up moving crime to the area.
She said there used to be problems on Frances Street Plaza, but after that area was redesigned, the problems shifted over to State Street. A State Street redesign then sent crime over to Philosopher’s Grove, a small plaza with stone seating and trees.
“People used to eat lunch on it and their kids would play on it,” Cnare said of Philospher’s Grove.
Cnare said Mayor Paul Soglin has asked the planning staff, the landscaping architects and the traffic engineers to start thinking about the space differently and that specific design plans are still in progress.
Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said he is offering a $50,000 amendment to Soglin’s proposed capital budget to implement possible design changes and other improvements to Philosopher’s Grove. The city’s Board of Estimates is meeting Tuesday to discuss the budget amendment.
Verveer stressed that crime in the area generally involves drug dealing but is rarely harmful to the public walking by.
“There are people who will walk a block out of their way, but the reality is it’s generally a safe place,” Vereer said. “Problems rarely occur after 10 p.m. at night.”
Verveer said his amendment would have City Council vote on possible alternatives to the area by early 2015. Problems in this area typically die down when weather turns cold, so there is some time to work during the winter, he said.
Joel DeSpain, the Madison Police Department spokesperson, said that specific area of State Street has been an area of crime for some time now, making it a point of focus for city police. The department has tried numerous initiatives in the area, from talking to people there to having officers eat lunch there, he said, adding that the initiatives haven’t done much to change the current problems.
The proposed changes are still all at preliminary stages, Lt. David McCaw of MPD said, but they include removing the stones used for seating or extending Mifflin Street.