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Downtown 2000 (pdf), adopted in 1989, was the last planning effort to look at Madison’s downtown in a holistic way. Since that time, there have been numerous neighborhood plans and other studies, but each focused on a specific smaller geography or issue. Obviously, much has changed and the downtown is continuing to evolve. It is important to have a plan in place that will guide individual actions so that they work together towards a common desired future.

During the development of Madison’s Comprehensive Plan (adopted in 2006), a supporting effort was initiated to examine some of the issues and trends in downtown. This effort is embodied in the 2004 Downtown Advisory Report (pdf). This report provides a summary of existing downtown plans and studies and input received during public meetings held in the spring of 2004. It also provides a vision for the downtown and general goals and recommendations on topics including: land use, housing, transportation, economic development, civic/cultural, open space and recreation, and urban design.

The Downtown Advisory Report (pdf) served as the basis for many of the objectives and policies for the downtown that are included in the Comprehensive Plan, which also includes baseline land use and building height recommendations for 10 sub-districts. However, one of the priority recommendations in the Comprehensive Plan is that a more detailed plan be prepared for the downtown.


Prepare, adopt and implement a Downtown Plan that provides a detailed framework and recommendations to guide development and activities in Madison’s downtown area. (City of Madison’s Comprehensive Plan, January 2006)

A summary of these documents can be found here.


The general approach is to build on the background, vision, objectives, policies, and recommendations contained in the Downtown Advisory Report (pdf) and the Comprehensive Plan. These documents represent the starting point for the Downtown Plan. To make the dialog more engaging these issue areas may be imbedded in themes, such as: Downtown Living, Working, Moving Around, Visitors & Tourists, Recreation & Entertainment and Sense of Place (and places).

The process is expected to commence in April 2008 and last approximately one year. At that time, it is expected that a public hearing draft of the plan will be ready for introduction to the Common Council.

The general steps in the process and timeline are summarized in the table below, which is based on meeting windows-- a term used to describe meetings held during a particular phase of the project. Each meeting window will have a specified purpose, topics and timeframe. Any meetings held during a particular timeframe will focus on the purpose and topics associated with that meeting window. Since many meetings are anticipated involving numerous groups, this concept is being utilized as the framework to keep the entire project moving forward. The highlighted meeting window indicates the current phase of the project.


The Big Picture. Where Have We Been, Where We Are, Where Are We Heading?

Kick off



  • Education on existing plans and past plans
    • recommendations
    • accomplishments
  • Description of planning process
  • Reaffirm vision of DT Advisory Report
  • Education on general data and trends
  • Validate issues and goals already identified
    • what's missing?
    • prioritize


What are the Possibilities?
  • ID broad approaches to deal with issues identified
  • Evaluate positive/negatives and tradeoffs of each
Charting a Course
  • Focus/Refine alternatives
  • Begin to develop recommendations
Getting Down to Action
  • Finalize recommendations
  • Develop implementation strategy
    • ID partnerships
    • ID funding sources
    • ID project leads
Pulling it All Together

Plan Document



  • Tie up loose ends
  • Draft Plan (public hearing draft) for introduction to Common Council

Staff from the City’s Department of Planning and Community and Economic Development will lead this effort, with overall guidance and policy direction being provided by the Plan Commission and Common Council. Other City commissions and committees are expected to have particular interests in the downtown and will receive regular updates and will likely discuss the plan at some of their meetings.

Newsletter Updates

Newsletters will be published regularly throughout the process to provide information on the project’s status. These newsletters will be posted below as they are produced.

Downtown Plan Newsletter #7
Downtown Plan Newsletter #7 (formatted to print at 8.5x11)
Downtown Plan Newsletter #6

Downtown Plan Newsletter #5
Downtown Plan Newsletter #4
Downtown Plan Newsletter #3
Downtown Plan Newsletter #2
Downtown Plan Newsletter #1