City to add public restrooms downtown

City to add public restrooms downtown
City officials have proposed designs like this, the Portland Lou.


The City of Madison will be deciding where to locate public restrooms downtown after approving money for them in the city budget.

But the location and the style could be controversial.

The City council approved $300,000 the capital budget for public restrooms earlier this week, setting up a discussion now on where the place to go should go.

Downtown leaders and businesses say there’s a need for public restrooms in the State Street and capitol square area because of the increasing number of visitors and the homeless population.

“There are some events that don’t use port-o-potties like the farmers market and we need public bathrooms,” said Susan Schmitz with Downtown Madison, Inc. “There are some available in the Capitol and Overture Center and some of the public buildings but they are not open all the time.”

Already being considered as a possible design is the “Portland Loo,” a design the city of Portland both uses and sells. The bare-bones restroom encourages users to get in and get out, with thin walls, an outdoor sink and slats that allow you to see feet and hear noises inside.

Businesses like Ian’s Pizza on State try to limit their restroom use to customers but it isn’t always feasable during busy downtown events. Which is why they think a public place to go could help.

“I think that overall it’s going to be a good idea and relieve some of the congestion we see in here when there are events like concerts on the square or jazz at five” said Ryan Campbell, Assistant manager of Ian’s on State.

But will a business want people doing their business outside their storefront?

“That’s the tricky question here,” said Campbell. “The idea would be if its right outside our door, maybe not necessarily. It would be tough to say unless we had the details of where the council wanted to put it.”

The facilities management arm of the city engineering department is tasked with figuring out just where to put these and what form they’ll take. It can be expected that public comment will be taken on it once plans are developed.