Lake Monona Waterfront - Preliminary Report

Last Updated: 02/11/2022

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The Preliminary Report for the Lake Monona Waterfront is complete!

The report is a pre-planning document to inform the future planning phase for the Lake Monona lakeshore corridor. The information includes the goals and priorities from the community engagement work conducted in 2019 and 2020 and a thorough site analysis and inventory for the planning area. The report's completion is the first step in developing a city-wide vision for this critical lakeshore green space.

Lake Monona Waterfront - Preliminary Report

Update - The Lake Monona Waterfront is entering the next phase in the master plan development process. Please see the Lake Monona Waterfront - Design Challenge page for further details.

Project 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. This pre-design document is the first phase of the planning initiative and is focused on developing base information for future planning work.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, on-line surveys and four community workshops (one held virtually due to COVID 19 restrictions). Outreach conveyed information on the planning area's history, previous planning efforts, current amenities and examples of how other municipalities are reconnecting with their waterfronts. 

The initial study area focused primarily on Law Park; a 4.7-acre green space that offers over 2,500 feet of shoreline three blocks from the Capitol Square. Law Park was originally conceived in 1911 by John Nolen in his seminal plan, Madison: A Model City. In his plan, Nolen envisioned a 5,000 ft. long waterfront esplanade that connected the lake to the Capitol and surrounding community. In 1943, a greatly reduced park was constructed on filled land establishing the park’s current extents. Although the park provides a linear connection along the south edge of the isthmus, the shoreline green space is isolated from the greater downtown area by a six-lane highway, railroad corridor and approximately 35 ft. of elevation change. Access points to the park are limited to the far east and west ends, with a midpoint connection at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center. Numerous plans to improve the park and re-connect it to downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods have been proposed over the park’s history, but none have been implemented. Madison’s 2012 Downtown Plan identifies Law Park as an “unparalleled opportunity to develop a premier lakefront park”. 

In late 2019, the study area was expanded to include the John Nolen Drive causeway and northern portion Olin Park. The preliminary report's focus now includes over 1.7 miles of lake shoreline and 17 acres of parkland. The combined areas of Law Park, the causeway, and Olin Park create a unified lakeshore corridor connecting Madison’s downtown, east, west, and south side communities. The study area is a unique opportunity for the city to develop a holistic vision that fosters neighborhood connections and celebrates the natural beauty of Lake Monona.

Revised Study Area

With the completion of the preliminary report, the next phase of the planning initiative is establishing a framework for plan development and review. The planning process will require engagement and cooperation by a broad group of project stakeholders – including Alders, community leaders, neighborhood association representatives, City and County agencies, area residents, and park users. Combined with State and Army Corp of Engineer regulatory reviews, the project’s scale and scope warrant a comprehensive process beyond the standard park development model. Parks intends to submit a resolution to the Common Council outlining an enhanced planning process for this critical corridor. The intent is to foster an open discussion with elected representatives and secure Council authorization prior to starting the next phase of plan development. 

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
Open House Presentation

Consultant Team 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.

Questions or comments regarding the Lake Monona Waterfront - Preliminary Report can be sent to Project updates will be posted to this site as they become available.