Why is Madison, WI much smaller and more rural than Rochester, NY, on Google Maps when it’s population surpassed Rochester’s in 2002?
I can’t give you specifics or a definite reason why this might be the case but I can tell you what I have observed from over 20 years of growing up in Madison, WI.For one. its on an Isthmus:“Madison's origins begin in 1829, when former federal judge James Duane Doty purchased over a thousand acres (4 km²) of swamp and forest land on the isthmus between Lakes Mendota and Monona, with the intention of building a city in the Four Lakes region. He purchased 1,261 acres for $1,500.”A road diagram nearly 100 years after it was founded. Not a lot of land for them to work with from this road diagram in 1920. In fact, there used to be a lot of swamp land just south of the Capitol that was turned into roads and houses.I am going to act like you may not be from Madison and therefore have never traveled to or visited this beautiful area..I hate that this city is on an Isthmus but I grew up here and my family and friends all live in Madison, so I have never had a reason to leave. It is miserable living in a city that really cannot have new roads built or new space and just keeps adding more and more street lights where they are not needed. (Whoever is in charge of the road system and it’s street lights are many bad words that I won’t utter here)Because the city is essentially stuck between two lakes there is limited land for people to build and live on. Some of the folks I have run into over the years who lived downtown have said that the underground parking spots in their apartments or condos can go for exorbitant amounts of money. Some folks won’t even move into a place if they aren’t also sold all the underground parking spots some of these wealthy people own.This is a picture of Madison’s unique Isthmus. There are only 5 in the United States. The Isthmus of Catalina Island, Isthmus near Fidalgo Island, The Madison Isthmus, Seattle, Washington and Point Peninsula, New York.When I grew up here as a kid starting in 1990 Madison was kind of it’s own little city. I grew up on all different sides of town, Monona, East, West, Middleton.. My dad used to drive me out past the edge of East Town mall where there were just country roads to reach my friends house to have sleep overs. My dad used to tell me that one day when you are older there won’t be country roads out here anymore. It will all be connected to the next town over (Sun Prairie. It is literally almost connected to Madison at this point). He was right. The old country roads we used to travel have now been widened for greater traffic, and the farm land has been converted into housing for large suburbs as far as the eye can see.For the longest time it seemed like most folks were living out in the suburbs like Fitchburg or Richmond Hills, even if they were working somewhere downtown these folks would make the commute. But with the 8-year reign of Governor Scott Walker a lot of things changed, we got this removal of all the industrial buildings lining up East Washington leading up to the Capitol Square and their replacement of middle to upper class apartment buildings. People want to live downtown so they aren’t making long commutes from the suburbs just to go to work, or because they want to be a part of the downtown culture where there is a lot of fun to be had. Most of these new buildings that have been built have shown up in the past 5 or 10 years and with new populations and tourism comes new hotels.Back when my dad managed the place if you wanted a fancy hotel you would go to the Concourse, but now you have resorts like the Hilton, Hyatt, AC Hotel, or the beautiful Edgewater. The Concourse Hotel has a lot of history and stories my dad used to tell me from the 90’s when he ran the Governors Club where people like Chris Farley or Brett Favre used to visit frequently. Recently my dad gave me a receipt he had swiped from the hotel in the 90’s that had Chris Farleys signature on it. From some other folks I’ve spoken to who worked there they’ve said Farley used to visit the Concourse all the time and that he was an incredibly nice person that was always fun to go out with, but he always had a hint of sadness about him like he was haunted by demons. We all know how this turned out for him of course. He was from Madison and was also buried here.A photo in case you are too young to remember who Chris Farley was. A comedic genius.When I was a kid in high school going to The Edgewater for prom it was just a run down little building with a tiny stage, but a few years later it was completely torn down and remodeled into a beautiful building on the lake with it’s own ice skating rink. It seems like the goal for this city was to try and reverse this rural small town look that most folks had an image of and turn it into a real tourist attraction for people moving here that want to work for Epic. Don’t even get me started on Epic.. (They are a giant campus of buildings in Verona for a business that writes and implants software and ecosystems for Hospital computers). I would imagine they are a good reason why more and more people want to live downtown and move to Madison in the first place since they pay well and hire young people out of College. This could be a good reason why things have been changing drastically in this City in the past decade, but that is just a theory.So to give you an overall outline of why Madison is the way it is I thought I would share with you some history and backstory about a few things I’ve experienced as a resident of Mad-Town. It is a beautiful city but you can’t really build anything new in the downtown area unless you first tear something down. This is what they’ve been trying to do since the sprawl of the city keeps getting further and further out, and people don’t want to commute half an hour to an hour just to get to work. The only way to build is up and since they have not been doing this for people who can normally afford it (living downtown even in a small studio apartment is exceptionally expensive) people have to live on the outskirts. Since there are also smaller towns on the edges of the City and Town of Madison they are being connected and turned into a part of the overall picture.P.S. Another answer I can give is that there actually is a differentiation between the City and Town of Madison. Everyone tends to call Madison one City but there are actually two separate parts of it, the City proper and the Town. Then of course you throw into the mix Fitchburg, Shorewood, Monona, Middleton, etc etc and it just becomes more and more complicated. So it is hard to know if when you are looking at numbers if they include both the City and Town of Madison, or if they are given separately. That is just another theory though.