Mike Ivey’s Business Beat: DQ drive-through sails through

Mike Ivey —  11/12/2008 11:07 am

The last time Madison was arguing over drive-through windows at fast-food restaurants, it turned into a national brouhaha fed by Rush Limbaugh and the Drudge Report.

This time it barely hit the local radar screen.

I’m talking about the approval last week of a new Dairy Queen “Chill & Grill” at 1513 Lake Point Drive as part of the ongoing redevelopment of a neighborhood once considered so dicey, the city changed its name.

The DQ will help anchor a $1.8 million, two-building office and retail project at 1526 W. Broadway on the southeast side.

City officials have been working for years to improve the area formerly known as Broadway-Simpson, which Ald. Tim Bruer once said had the most “drug-infested and decayed apartment buildings in the city.”

But things have turned around over the last decade, helped in large part by the Community Development Authority’s Monona Shores-Waunona Woods redevelopment. That $15 million effort included tearing down the worst buildings, refurbishing others and converting three dozen rental townhouses into owner-occupied condos.

The private sector has also stepped up, with local businessmen Scott and Jim Norton opening the Cranberry Creek Restaurant, which has benefited from the hungry lunch crowd coming across the street from the giant WPS Insurance complex.

With Cranberry Creek apparently on solid footing, the Nortons have now turned their attention to the Broadway Station project a few hundred yards west.

But before breaking ground, they needed a conditional use permit for a drive-through service window for a DQ. The franchise said it wouldn’t locate there without a drive-through, a move developers said would kill the entire project.

The Nortons took their case before the Madison Plan Commission last week, which got an earful from several condo owners who said they feared a DQ with drive-up service would bring more traffic into the area. They also warned about “gang graffiti” and “too many kids running around,” suggesting that tensions in the racially mixed neighborhood remain.

In the end, however, the commission sided with several longtime Lake Point residents who said having a DQ not only provides families a place for ice cream but might also provide some jobs to needy teenagers.

“I see the DQ as an economic development tool,” says Patrick DePula, past president of the Waunona Woods condo association and a former Dane County Board supervisor. “Plus, I’ve got a 7-month old, and it’s kind of a pain to get them in and out of the car each time you want to grab something from a fast-food place.”

Absent, ironically, from the proceedings was Plan Commission member Eric Sundquist, whose remark about rethinking the drive-through windows in light of concerns over automobile idling and global climate change put Madison in the spotlight for a day back in May.

Sundquist’s comments, which appeared here in the June 25 Business Beat column, were sent to the Drudge Report Web site via WIBA’s own Vicki McKenna. The Drudge feature then caught the attention of radio commentator Rush Limbaugh.

Limbaugh used the story to warn his listeners that liberals and Barack Obama are prepared to revoke American’s right to burn as much fossil fuel as they wish.

Now, I guess we’ll see if Rush was right.



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