Lake Monona Waterfront Design Challenge

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Project Information

Latest Update: Lake Monona Waterfront - Master Plan Update 

Thank you to everyone who was able to join us for an update on the Lake Monona Waterfront planning initiative! 

Madison Parks held a public event at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center on Monday, July 24. Representatives from the Sasaki design presented proposed revisions to their lakeshore plan based on community input received during the first phase of the design challenge. The team is working closely with the Lake Monona Waterfront Ad-hoc Committee to prepare an updated plan for Common Council consideration later this fall. The event included a half-hour presentation, a Q&A session, and an open house to discuss the project with team members and Parks staff.

The presentation and Q&A session were recorded:

Please note, due to a technical issue during the presentation, the first 6-1/2 minutes were recorded without sound. This portion of the video was removed to avoid confusion. We are providing text document that includes the event introduction information.

Over the coming months, the design team and Ad-hoc Committee will continue to refine the draft master plan with an anticipated Common Council introduction in late October this year. The plan will then be referred to various City Committees, with opportunities for further public input during the committee review process.

Please send Lake Monona Waterfront comments or questions to:

Design Challenge Team Selection

Madison Parks is pleased to announce the Lake Monona Waterfront Ad-hoc Committee selected Sasaki to proceed with the Lake Monona Waterfront master plan process. The Committee evaluated the three master plan submissions and scored each team on five primary categories: alignment with guiding principles; overall project vision and cohesion; response to and engagement with the public input; project feasibility; and overall quality of plan materials. The Sasaki team consistently scored higher in Committee's review and the public survey results, notably in community outreach and feasibility. The selection begins the next phase of plan development, with the Committee and team refining their plan based on the community input received during the comment and review period. Parks anticipates introducing the revised master plan to the Common Council in October, 2023.

We thank the James Corner Field Operations and Agency Landscape + Planning teams for participating in the challenge and are grateful for the expertise and vision they brought to the process. The level of thought and effort demonstrated by both teams is greatly appreciated. The future of the lakeshore is better due to their participation in the design challenge.

We look forward to the next exciting phase in creating a visionary, inclusive, and environmentally focused master plan for the Lake Monona Waterfront. 

Lake Monona Waterfront Survey Results 

Thank you to everyone who completed the online survey. Your input and thoughts are greatly appreciated. The survey closed on March 23, 2023, and the compiled results are now available for review. Please see the links below for data tabulations, written comments, and received correspondence.

With the conclusion of the public review and comment phase for the three plan options, the Lake Monona Waterfront Ad-hoc Committee will consider the results and comments during their plan evaluation and scoring process. The plan evaluations will occur over a series of committee meetings in April and early May. Once a preferred team design/plan is selected, the committee will work with the respective team to make design revisions based on comments and committee recommendations. The committee anticipates introducing the revised master plan to the Council Council for their consideration later this year.

Information on upcoming Ad-hoc Committee meetings is available here: LMW Ad-hoc Committee

View the master plan submissions

After 14 weeks of development, the design teams have completed their master plan submittals for the Lake Monona Waterfront. See the design reports, presentation plans, and introductory videos below.

Agency Landscape + Planning

James Corner Field Operations


Frequently Asked Questions

Madison Parks is gathering public questions on the design challenge process and team submissions through an online survey and a dedicated email address (see below).
We are periodically posting responses during the public review phase. Due to the volume of inquiry, questions are consolidated in general themes. Below is the current list of responses.

Lake Monona Waterfront - Questions and Responses

Lake Monona Waterfront Design Challenge - Public Event Series

Design Challenge Master Plan Presentations

  • Held on Thursday, January 26, 2023 @ 6:00 pm CT
  • Madison Central Library, Rooms 301-302, 201 W Mifflin Street
  • The design teams presented their proposed master plans for the Lake Monona Waterfront.
  • View the recorded LIVE STREAM

Design Challenge Check-In

  • Held on Monday, November 7, 2022 @ 6:00 pm CT, at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, Lecture Hall, 1 John Nolen Drive
  • Design teams virtually presented their initial thoughts and concepts in developing a master plan vision for the Lake Monona Waterfront.
  • View the recorded LIVE STREAM
  • Check-in Presentation Slides

Design Challenge Kick-Off

  • Held on Monday, October 3, 2022 @ 6:00 pm CT, at the Madison Central Library, Rooms 301-302, 201 W Mifflin Street
  • Design teams virtually attended the event and introduced themselves and their team's unique perspective on master plan development.
  • View the recorded LIVE STREAM. 

Lake Monona Waterfront Ad-hoc Committee

Meetings Agendas, Materials, and Video Recordings
Information on the Ad-hoc Committee's previous and upcoming meetings is available here: Legistar - Committee Meetings

  • To access meeting materials, open the agenda pdf file and select the desired agenda item. A new tab will open with the meeting files.
  • Meeting videos are only available for virtually-held meetings.

Informational Presentations

During the public review and comment phase, the committee held a series of informational presentations by project stakeholders that were open to the public.
The presentations included:

  • 10/19/2022   John Nolen Drive Reconstruction and the Mad-City Ski Team
  • 10/26/2022   Preliminary Report Public Engagement and Brittingham Boats
  • 11/16/2022   Destination Madison/Madison Sports and Madison Bikes
  • 12/07/2022   Clean Lakes Alliance and Ho-Chunk Representatives
  • 12/21/2022   Madison Destination District

Meetings can be viewed via the Lake Monona Waterfront Ad-hoc Committee website

Lake Monona Waterfront Design Challenge - Design Team Finalists

The Lake Monona Waterfront Ad-hoc Committee completed its evaluation of the fourteen RFQ submissions and the five interviewed teams. The top scoring teams are Agency Landscape + Planning, James Corner Field Operations, and Sasaki Associates. The experience and expertise the selected teams bring to the master planning process are significant, with each team providing a unique perspective on plan development. 

LMW - RFQ and Interview Combined Scoring 07-21-22

Master plan work is anticipated to begin in October, and teams will have fourteen weeks to prepare their vision of a signature waterfront master plan for the Lake Monona Waterfront. The plans will then be available for public review and comment, with the Ad-hoc Committee recommending a preferred plan to the Common Council and Board of Park Commission in 2023.

Design Challenge RFQ

Madison Parks issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to invite interested planning teams to submit their qualifications for consideration in the team selection process. The deadline for team submissions was May 2, 2022, at 2:00 p.m. CDT, and the RFQ is now closed. Please see the list of received consultant team submissions below:

RFQ 1008-0-2022- BP vendor list

RFQ team submissions

Based on RFQ responses, a City-appointed ad-hoc committee will select three multi-disciplinary teams to participate in the Design Challenge. Each selected team will receive a contract for a set stipend of $75,000 to develop a waterfront master plan option and participate in the competition. The committee will also review master plan submissions and select a preferred master plan to proceed in the plan approval process. The selection includes the opportunity for the chosen design team to further contract with the City for plan refinement and schematic development. 

The RFQ and addendums were posted to the indicated bid distribution websites:

RFQ pre-submittal informational meeting

The Parks Division held a non-mandatory, pre-submittal meeting via Zoom on March 17, 2022. The presentation focused on the information provided in the RFQ and Lake Monona Waterfront - Preliminary Report.

Pre-submittal Informational Presentation Slides 

Pre-submittal Presentation Registration List

Lake Monona Waterfront Project Description

The City of Madison Parks Division launched the Lake Monona Waterfront Design Challenge in early 2022. The Design Challenge is a competition to create a visionary, inclusive, and environmentally focused master plan for 1.7 miles of shoreline and 17 acres of Madison’s foremost public lakefront.

The primary goals of the Design Challenge are to create a welcoming destination for all Madison residents and visitors, connect Downtown Madison to Lake Monona, enhance community connections, increase physical and visual access to the lake, improve Lake Monona’s water quality and aquatic habitat, celebrate Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural legacy in Madison, and preserve Lake Monona’s cultural history from the Ho-Chunk nation to the present day.

The Lake Monona Waterfront master plan should transform Madison’s lakefront into a beautiful, activity-rich signature park that embodies the character and values of the city. It must incorporate innovative and iconic features that are regional attractions and provide an indelible experience unique to Madison.

Lake Monona Waterfront Planning Area

Lake Monona Waterfront fly-over video

The Lake Monona Waterfront - Preliminary Report provides a thorough site inventory, analysis, and overview of the project's initial community engagement. The report is available below.

Design Challenge Support

The Lake Monona Waterfront Design Challenge is the result of decades of private advocacy and support. Through the efforts of volunteers, design professionals, stakeholder groups, and community leaders, the City approved funding for the development of a signature park master plan in 2018. The City’s current Capital Improvement Plan also identifies $2.5 million to be used for a catalytic demonstration project for the Lake Monona waterfront. Successful implementation of master plan recommendations will depend on continuing support from project advocates and the private sector. The City seeks to develop productive, public/private partnerships and identify philanthropic opportunities to realize the Lake Monona Waterfront vision.

The unique opportunities and challenges of the project area require an approach beyond the standard master planning process. On February 1, 2022, the City of Madison the Common Council authorized the Parks Division to hold a design competition for master plan development for the Lake Monona Waterfront (file# 68974). The intent of the design challenge is to attract regional and national planning expertise to the planning area. The challenge will be a two-year process, with design team selections and master plan options prepared in 2022, and refinement of a preferred master plan and submission to the Common Council in 2023.

Funding support for the competition is provided by the City of Madison and the Friends of Nolen Waterfront. The Friends of Nolen Waterfront is a private, non-profit advocacy group focused on promoting and developing the Lake Monona Waterfront as a signature civic park. The Friends group website contains a wealth of information on the history of the planning area and previously proposed plans for the Lake Monona shore.

Friends of Nolen Waterfront 

Lake Monona Waterfront  Ad-hoc Committee

The planning initiative's success depends on engaging a broad range of representatives with diverse perspectives in the decision-making process. The Lake Monona Waterfront Ad-hoc Committee will select the design challenge participants and recommend a preferred master plan to the Madison Common Council and Board of Park Commissioners.  Per the authorizing resolution, committee positions include:
(7) Community representatives
(1) Member of the Board of Park Commissioners
(1) Professional Civil/Structural Engineer
(1) Member of the Madison Parks Foundation Board
(1) Member of the Monona Terrace Board
(1) Member of the Friends of Nolen Waterfront
(1) Member of the Board of Public Works
*One of the above appointments shall be a professional landscape architect
The opportunity to submit an application to serve on the ad-hoc committee opened on February 4, 2022, and closed at noon, February 23, 2022. 

The Parks Division complied applications for review and consideration by the Mayor's Office. Prospective appointees require Common Council confirmation, and information on the introduction and confirmation process is available here: Legistar #70649.

Lake Monona Waterfront - Preliminary Report

The Preliminary Report for the Lake Monona Waterfront Design Challenge was completed in 2021. 

Lake Monona Waterfront Preliminary Report

Report Background

In 2019, the City of Madison Parks Division hired a multi-disciplinary consultant team to prepare a preliminary report for the Lake Monona Waterfront corridor. The initial study area focused on Law Park; a 4.7-acre green space that offers over 2,500 feet of shoreline three blocks from the Capitol Square. In late 2019, the study area was expanded to include the John Nolen Drive causeway and the northern portion of Olin Park. Revised Study Area

The completed report is the first phase of the overall Lake Monona Waterfront planning initiative. The report provides a thorough site analysis and consolidates the results of early public outreach to inform future master plan development. The community engagement process utilized a multifaceted approach that included meetings with smaller stakeholder groups, neighborhood associations, on-site intercept reviews, tabling at community festivals, online surveys, and four community workshops (one held virtually due to COVID 19 restrictions).

Public Workshops for the Lake Monona Waterfront

Community Workshops and Open House were held at the following locations and dates:

  • Thursday, August 15, 2019; 6:00-7:30 PM, Workshop at the Atrium on Park Street, 2300 S. Park St.
  • Wednesday, August 21, 2019; 6:00-7:30 PM, Workshop at Warner Park Community Recreation Center, 1625 Northport Dr.
  • Wednesday, September 18, 2019; 6:00-7:30 PM, Workshop at Madison Central Public Library, 201 W. Mifflin St.
  • Tuesday, October 1, 2019;  6:00-7:30 PM, Open House at Badger Rock Neighborhood Center, 501 East Badger Rd
  • Thursday, October 29, 2020; 6:00-7:30 PM, Zoom Virtual Meeting

Preliminary Report Consultant Selection

The City of Madison Parks Division issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) through Finance/Purchasing in December 2018 to select a consultant team to begin the Law Park Preliminary Report work in early 2019. Consistent with City of Madison Purchasing guidelines, the RFP was located on the Demandstar and VendorNet websites under the "Law Park – Preliminary Report" title and was posted for 5 weeks, with proposals due on January 30, 2019. Following the submission deadline, the proposals were reviewed and scored by an interagency staff team. SmithGroup received the highest score following the interview component and started work on the project in June 2019. In 2020, the SmithGroup contract was amended to include the expanded planning area in the report.

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