The Madison City Council on Monday night (July 12th) will discuss hiring Atlanta-based design firm Urban Collage to create a "Madison Growth Plan." This growth plan will use public meetings and workshops (charrettes) to identify "key development areas" within the city, and create a master plan for each of them. Urban Collage has created master plans for Garner, NC (outside of Raleigh) and Prattville, along with several other towns; it lists Chattanooga and Atlanta among their client cities.
What's so significant about this? Madison has realized that it's running out of land. Surrounded on three sides by Huntsville, with the exception of East Limestone, there's nowhere else to go. In order to remain vibrant, Madison's going to have to densify and look into "infill" development-- a concept that a suburb of 40,000 normally doesn't have to worry about.
But don't worry, Madison! Becoming more urban is the next logical step for a city that has only become significant within the past thirty years. It's also an exciting opportunity; for example, maybe now the city will develop an actual downtown. If done right, this will mean more retail and entertainment opportunities for Madison, which will bring more tax revenue, which (theoretically) will go back into improving the city's outdated infrastructure (e.g. the roads that have remained mostly unchanged since the boom began in the '80s).
The growth plan should come up with some cool concepts and ideas on how to wisely develop the last large parcels of land in the city, along with some underused areas (like along Hughes Road near Madison Boulevard). Expect these plans to be walkable and mixed-use. In other words, very un-Madison.