City plans redesign of State Street park causing major issues

Philosopher's Grove Park to see possible renovation, due to illegal activity
City plans redesign of State Street park causing major issues

The City of Madison is looking to redesign Philosopher’s Grove Park, located at the end of State St. on the Capitol Square, to push crime out of the area.

Anthony Rineer and his sister Karima, recently bought Teddywedgers, one of Madison’s favorite restaurants. They have been excited to share their love for the restaurant with locals and visitors but are facing problems with the homeless.

“Working down here even with Ray, the previous owner, it was really intense,” ,” Rineer said. “There were a lot of people who kept to themselves, but then there were four or five of them that would just be constantly at it, which made it an unsafe area.”

The restaurant is adjacent to Philosopher’s Grove Park, an area that has become a haven for illegal activity and fights. There are so many problems that surrounding businesses said that they are losing customers to intimidation.

Madison police have been called to the area countless times to deal with the many problems that arise there. A few include drug deals, aggravated batteries, prostitution and armed robberies. One occurrence involved a homeless man being clubbed to death in his sleep near the park.

“I think it’s to the point where something has to be done,” said Madison Police Department’s Lt. Dave McCaw.

Many of the same issues were dealt with at Peace Park, another park on State St., before its reconstruction. Since then, there are fewer problems in that area. The City of Madison thinks that a redesign to Philosopher’s Grove Park will have a similar effect.

“Now the spot is Philosopher’s Grove, and environmentally, if people choose to look at it to resolve those issues, hopefully it goes back to a spot where people, anybody, feels like they can go without being intimidated or victims of crime,” said McCaw.

Teddywedgers is hoping a new layout for the space will bring in more customers and less crime. The owners want to be able to go back to their original plan for running the business and keeping customers happy.

“We definitely are a family place and we definitely want to be part of the community, and it’s hard when you get thrown out because of an outside problem,” Rineer said.

Tonight the City of Madison is hearing from the public, as well as business owners, about the issues surrounding the park. That input will go to the Madison City Council, which will look at changes for the space. By the spring of 2015, the city is hoping to have a plan to get Philosopher’s Grove Park back to a multiuse space for the community to enjoy.