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Sunday, December 03, 2023

Courtesy of Corey Coyle via Wikimedia Commons 

Design teams present proposals to reimagine Lake Monona waterfront

Three teams presented their proposals to redesign Lake Monona’s waterfront along John Nolen Drive and Monona Terrace.

Three design teams presented their proposals to remodel the Lake Monona Waterfront Thursday evening at the Madison Public Library. 

Sasaki, James Corner Field Operations, and Agency Landscape and Planning submitted designs that cover a 1.7-mile stretch of the lakefront from Law Park to the John Nolen Drive causeway and the northern section of Olin Park.

The city said it aims to create a design that prioritizes accessibility, preserves aquatic habitats and highlights the lake’s history. The remodeled waterfront will also serve as a way to connect south Madison communities to the isthmus.

Agency Landscape and Planning’s design focused primarily on restoring marshes and adding green park space along the waterfront. The plan would also add elevated and non-elevated walkways as well as a beach along Olin Park. 

Agency Landscape and Planning co-founder and landscape architect Gina Ford said the team’s plan prioritized improving accessibility for pedestrians and softening the shoreline to improve water quality.

“The way we treat our lakes and our natural resources is a direct reflection of our values as a community,” Ford said. “The framework establishes connected bikeways, roadways, railways, pedestrian connections, and most importantly for the Madison community, safe and welcoming paths for all.”

James Corner Field Operations proposed restoring marshland near Olin Park, using the excess land to create a lawn on the north side of Law Park and a beach on the south side. The team’s proposal includes the addition of four piers along the waterfront, a playground in Olin Park, a rooftop amphitheater on Monona Terrace and a kayak course. 

Founder and landscape architect James Corner highlighted the proposed design’s emphasis on socialization and its ability to connect people to nature.    

“One of the things we’re trying to do with our approach here is to bring a profound sense of nature back to the waterfront,” Corner said. “But not only nature, also a sense of people, a sense of socialization, a sense of people coming together and being active on the lake, on the water and in the park itself.”

Sasaki proposed the expansion of Monona Terrace to include an amphitheater, boathouse, park and community center. The plan includes the addition of a beachfront and nature center in Olin Park. 

The design also includes plans for a story walk that highlights significant events in the city’s history. Sasaki Principal Landscape Architect Anna Cawrse said the story walk connects Madison’s past to its present.

“It’s an opportunity to tell the story of the past, the present and create that space for future ideas,” Cawrse said. “The story walk is about telling the voices and the stories of Madison. It’s about creating a journey along the waterfront.”

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All three plans would reduce the number of lanes on John Nolen Drive to expand the amount of green space on the waterfront. They also intend to slow traffic speed on the causeway, allowing pedestrians and cyclists to more safely access the lake. 

The Lake Monona Waterfront Ad-hoc Committee will use the winning design as a guide to create its own plan. The committee will then submit its proposal to the Common Council for approval. 

The Common Council is expected to take up the submitted plan in August, where it may make changes to the committee’s design before final approval. Madison residents are encouraged to vote for their preferred design in a survey available until March 23, the result of which will then be submitted to the committee for consideration. 

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Francesca Pica

Francesca Pica is the city news editor for The Daily Cardinal. She has covered multiple municipal elections and is a leading reporter on Madison labor issues. Additionally, she will serve as a news intern for The Capital Times throughout the summer of 2023.


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