On Saturdays when the Wisconsin Badgers play home football games, thousands of fans cross a triangular space near Camp Randall Stadium, bordered by Regent and Monroe Streets and Breese Terrace, bisected by one of the city's shortest streets: Crazylegs Lane.
The road is named after Hall of Fame running back and former UW athletic director Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch. The triangle hosts some bratwurst vendors on game day and features about 100 feet of the Southwest Commuter Path.
But the space could be much more, said Zia Brucaya of Madison planning firm Urban Assets.
“Right now, it’s a really underutilized space,” she said.
A city project wants to transform the triangle so it will get a little more attention, and it proposes to remove Crazylegs Lane to do that. Instead, whole space would be renamed "Crazylegs Plaza."
“The city would like to see that become a place where people hang out,” Brucaya said: meet up, eat lunch or maybe enjoy a small performance space.
The long-awaited reconstruction of Monroe Street is becoming a reality next spring and the city is taking advantage of the project to redesign the parcel, along with the entrance to Wingra Park.
By removing Crazylegs Lane, about 25,000 square feet of space will be freed up and a “placemaking” strategy could make the area more inviting, Brucaya said. It’s an exciting opportunity, she added, because the plaza is located at a convergence of major streets and serves as a gateway to nearby neighborhoods.
A public input meeting for the project will be held Tuesday, Aug. 8, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at HotelRED, 1501 Monroe Street. Urban Assets is hosting the meeting.
It’s the first of three public input meetings on the project, during which organizers will ask neighbors what they’d like to see in the space. It will include a “field trip” across the street to look at the plaza and organizers will ask attendees to consider sustainability, public art and pedestrian and bike connections.
The second meeting on Sept. 14 will offer several designs for both the plaza and Wingra Park entrance and ask the public to pick favorites. (An initial public meeting on the Wingra Park entrance was held in April.) The city will present the final designs in November at the third meeting. The actual projects would take place concurrently with the Monroe Street reconstruction, slated for next spring.
The city’s Request For Proposal (RFP) for the plaza calls for a “resilient design that can handle heavy pedestrian traffic” and vendors on football game days.
Public art for the project will be implemented by local mosaic artist Marcia Yapp, who has created mosaics for the community garden in Marlboro Park and contributed to a project in the Dunn’s Marsh neighborhood. The city also has two sculptures available to use, should the neighborhood want them: a lily and a badger.
The meeting will garner input on overall design themes, which could include athletic, industrial, natural or even historical, Brucaya said. At the initial meeting about the Wingra Park entrance, attendees suggested historical homage to the old Wingra ice house, Arboretum and Ho-Chunk history in the area.
Brucaya said she knows that sustainability will be a priority for the neighborhood and said the plaza could include green infrastructure like a rain garden. The RFP specifically calls for consideration of “innovative stormwater management practices.”
The budget for the redesign process and public art is $150,000, but the money for actually implementing the design will come out of the greater Monroe Street reconstruction budget, Brucaya said.
The changes won’t just be nice for the neighborhood, Brucaya said, as neighboring businesses like HotelRED and Associated Bank, which will move to 1605 Monroe St., are “very excited about what it could mean for their front door,” she said.
“Our guests will love having a park there,” said Jason Illstrup, general manager at HotelRED. “It’s two great spots that become even better when you get rid of the road.”
Brucaya is expecting a relatively small audience for the meeting, she said.
“People don’t use the Crazylegs triangle now, so it’s hard for them to visualize what will be,” she said.