The Monona Rag

Dealing the Dish on Monona, Wisconsin

Tag: Monona Drive

Future of Nichols School

As we talk about new businesses in Monona, we end up with several questions about the future of the old Nichols School building on the corner of Monona and Nichols/Pflaum. The building is currently being used by the school district as offices.

In the recent budget dealings, numerous people have brought up Nichols School as a potential financial windfall for the district – saying we could rent or even sell the property to help alleviate our budget shortfall.

Is Nichols a potential bag of money for the district?

The answer, at least right now, is probably no.

If you want to rent the school (and there were some reports that Madison called about renting), you have to do numerous things to get the school up to code. Things that cost money. You have all new issues with insurance – something that costs money. And most importantly, Nichols can really only do one thing – be a school – meaning only a school district would want to rent it. You need someone with the money to do such a thing, someone who needs more space, and someone close enough to make it worth everyone’s efforts. Pretty much the only entity that fits the latter bill is Madison – but they aren’t exactly rolling in cash. And even if you do manage to get a tenant – it’s unlikely the building would be a cash cow. Any revenues would likely be minimal. Not that the district should turn down any extra revenue – even small amounts – but it’s not going to be a savior in these times.

The second option is to sell the building. This is an interesting option, but there are numerous obstacles to this.

The early obstacles would be the community, the district and the building itself. To even get the district to put the land and building up for sale would require some work, with approval from the district as well as Monona. I don’t know how this land is zoned, but it would probably require a change from the city. And that’s not something that would be that simple. If a school is going to be razed, the community (both those living around the area as well as the entire city), would want something of value to be brought back in. That’s not always that easy of a task. To get everyone on the same page is difficult.

And speaking of razing the school, to tear down Nichols would cost a lot of money – something potential owners are well aware of. And believe me, no one is going to want to keep the building. As we said above, it’s only fit for being a school. An new development will likely be done from the ground up.

Your next obstacle is finding buyers. Five years ago you probably would have had numerous developers show up with plans for condos and shops – but not now. Those days are gone. No one is going to sink millions into a condo development. And to be honest, banks aren’t giving out money for such places anyhow.

So who would build at the current site? You’d need a deep pockets business who could afford tearing down the current structure, and then build their new facility. Potential customers could be health care facilities, insurance companies, or a business that needs a large tract of land (an example could be the Princeton Club, who are looking to build a smaller facility at the corner of Monona Dr. and Broadway).

UW Health is proposing a new facility on Broadway, and is an example of a health care organization that would have the money and need. But the Broadway location is going to cost less and offer easier access to their patients – so it doesn’t work.

The final obstacle is the economy. What the district wants for selling the land is probably not something they will get. They may feel it’s best to wait out the bad times, hold the land for a few more years, and hope new opportunities arise.

But for for now, there’s not enough potential buyers. The condo development market is in the tank. The cost of the land and tearing down Nichols is prohibitive to most businesses. So unless someone like a UW Health steps out of the shadows, it’s unlikely that Nichols will be sold anytime soon. The district will hold on to the location and look to sell when the economy recovers.

Restaurant Review: David’s Jamaican

David’s Jamaican restaurant has been on Monona Drive for quite a few years. It is, like so many of Monona Drive’s establishments, a locally run business. We spent some time recently tasting many David’s offerings, and here’s our report.

The Good

The Jerk Chicken if fabulous. The only thing we had that came close was the BBQ ribs. But the Jerk Chicken is great. We found the Jerk Pork solid, but not as tender and tasty as the chicken. The Jerk Shrimp was a mixed bag – one time it was wonderful – the next time very mediocre.

We liked the selection of beers, and usually go with the old school Red Stripe. Also, the varieties of Jamaican sodas gives the kids something to try.

The buffet is a good value, and it allows you to try many different foods. We recommend it for those looking for a variety, but to be honest, nothing beats the Jerk Chicken.

The meals will come with rice and beans and a veggies. You’ll get a lot of food. One order of Jerk Chicken can easily feed two.

For dessert, we recommend the Key Lime pie. It’s a small slice, but very tasty.

Prices are very reasonable – $10-15 for a large entree with rice, beans and veggies.

Finally, the colors, the reggae, the joy of something ‘different’ on Monona Drive – it’s great.

The not so good about David’s.

Some of the food we had was inconsistent – such as the shrimp. The Jerk Chicken was uniformly excellent, but a few of the items in the buffet were just average (although we must admit that buffet food is always a gamble).

The atmosphere (yes, we mention this in the good as well). The restaurant is old and it shows. The brightly painted interior, while enjoyable, is obviously hiding a lot of wear and tear – and not particularly well done. This does give it a certain charm, but a little bit goes a long way in this case – too long of a way.

The ruling.

Definitely give David’s a try – especially if you like spicy foods. It measures up just fine – if not better – than other Jamaican joints here in Madison. Our chief recommendations would be to try the Jerk Chicken with a slice a Key Lime pie for dessert. A Jamaican beer or soda will round out the meal – along with some Bob Marley in the background.

The prices are fair and we’ve never had to wait long for our food. They’ll have carry out orders for you in 10-15 minutes.

It’s hard to try everything at a restaurant, so if you’ve been to David’s, let us know your favorite menu items.

Monona Drive construction woes

While we are all excited at actually fixing up Monona Drive, we have to endure the construction process.

First, we have to say this – don’t people understand how to use the middle turn lane in the construction zone? Is it that hard to figure this out? I’ve see too many idiots take left hand turns from the far right lane – often times blocking everyone behind them because oncoming traffic is too busy.

Second, what’s the deal with blocking off the right hand lane at the corner of Monona and Broadway as you are coming west on Broadway? The lane is totally fine, and it forces all the cars turning onto Monona Drive to get into the single lane, just to immediately get into the right hand turn lane. Perhaps this puts the problem here instead of at the corner – but it’s annoying all the same.

Third, we have heard some talk of some businesses having tough times – which is not unexpected with the construction and the economy. Edo’s was for sale for a long time, and recent passes by the restaurant haven’t been encouraging – not lots of business. It appears that Rosario’s is up for sale – although this is because the owner is retiring.The Mexican grocery store next to Rosario’s – Super Tienda Latina – is also for sale. We’ve also heard some rumblings about a few other businesses up and down Monona who are suffering.

Fourth, we do wish we could go up and down Monona Drive and put a wrecking ball to some of those horrible old buildings. Shabby, rundown buildings often only attract shabby, rundown businesses.

Fifth, patronize your neighborhood businesses – especially during this time. If Monona is to maintain it’s unique atmosphere, we need our small, local businesses to survive. Maybe it’s pain, but take the time to visit your local establishments. Every little bit will help them out in these challenging times.

Finally, go get your Monona Moola. Get it at the Monona Chamber of Commerce. For every $4 you buy they give you $5 in Monona Moola – which you can spend at participating locations. Go to the Monona Drive’s Alive website for all the details. It’s a great deal – you save and you help local businesses.