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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Heirigs Holds Open House at Old School, Seeks Input on Development

Boy, Madison is becoming a hotbed of public participation in civic affairs. Comments are booming here at the Madville Times, the city is soliciting public opinion on the electric bill round-up program with a poll on its own website... and now even the private sector is getting in on the act. Developer Tom Heirigs and his business partners are hosting an open house Thursday (that's today!) from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the old Washington school building at North Washington Ave and NE 4th St. here in Madison. The purpose: to gather public input on just how Heirigs and the building's other co-owners should proceed with turning the old school into a residential development. Rental apartments? Condos?

"We want to know what other people think," Heirigs said. "We've had some people showing interest in buying.

"In general, the community has a special affection for that part of town. We're trying to find out what they want" [Chuck Clement, "Open House Planned for Former Elementary School," Madison Daily Leader, 2008.09.17].

The building is a totally private project now. Heirigs could do pretty much whatever he wanted with the place. Yet he recognizes that the Washington building, just like the other two old elementary schools the district divested itself of this decade, still occupy a special place in Madison's community psyche. Instead of plowing ahead with his own plans, he includes the general public in the discussion of how to make that old landmark serve not just his pocketbook but the neighborhood. He and his business partners may still proceed with a plan of their own, but the mere act of holding an open house to listen to the community is admirable.

So stop by the old school on your way home from the farmer's market tonight. Check out the old classrooms and the renovation proposals, and share your thoughts with Tom.

But watch out: next thing you know, people will start thinking that they supposed to speak up, that their opinions matter, and that Madison really is a democracy. Imagine that!


  1. I LOVE that Heirigs is creating a conversation for the public to give their input on this building. We need a lot more of this openness to input from the community on other things going on in town. Madisonites are full of creativity and great ideas. Way to go, Tom!

  2. It's a good business decision... after all, the Heirigs will be looking to local citizens to move into these apartments. It only makes sense to get ideas of what the folks want to make them more appealing and marketable!

  3. So open, public conversation is good business as well as good politics? Wow -- I'm glad folks in Madison are figuring that out!


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