Chalkboards invite ideas for Library Mall project

June 11, 2013

by Preston Schmitt

Photo: students facing chalkboard

Pedestrians stop on Library Mall to read — and sometimes, write — comments and suggestions on one of three public chalkboards about a reconstruction project being planned for Library Mall and the 700-800 block of State Street.

Photo: Jeff Miller

The academic year is over, but that’s not stopping Madison residents and visitors from writing on blackboards.

In mid-May, the city of Madison installed three boards and a supply of chalk near Library Mall to gather suggestions for upcoming reconstruction projects. The city is collaborating with UW-Madison to design plans for Library Mall and the 700 and 800 blocks of State Street. The overall goal is to create a cohesive space among these areas, the future Alumni Park, and the previously reconstructed East Campus Mall, according to Gary Brown, the UW’s director of campus planning and landscape architecture.

The university is awaiting final approval for the Library Mall project, but reconstruction of the State Street blocks is expected to begin next summer. The blackboards, which ask passersby to share their visions for State Street and the mall, will remain up until midsummer.

“When we start to put pen to paper and come up with conceptual designs for this space, it’s going to be based heavily on the type of input we receive.”

Bill Fruhling

“It’s a way for us to get input from people who actually use the space — to understand what they want to see, what they think is wonderful about this space now, and what they think can be improved,” says Bill Fruhling, principal planner for the city.  

He intends to have the feedback captured via the boards, as well as social media and public meetings, play a significant role in reconstruction plans.

“When we start to put pen to paper and come up with conceptual designs for this space, it’s going to be based heavily on the type of input we receive,” Fruhling says.

Students and others who frequent Library Mall are taking the opportunity to chalk up their ideas. Suggestions range from the serious (such as flowers, archways, more seating and a bike lane) to the comical (a giant trampoline, gargoyles and a cheese fountain). City staff members are collecting the responses by photographing and cleaning the boards on a regular basis.

“We’ve gotten some really good feedback,” Fruhling says. “People are sharing a lot of good ideas — not all of which are directly related to this project, but that’s OK.”