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A newly realized Lake Monona waterfront is getting closer to reality

Madison Common Council has approved the Lake Monona Waterfront Master Plan.

An artist rendering of what Madison's Lake Monona waterfront may look like.jpg

The Lake Monona Waterfront Master Plan has been approved by the city. | Rendering via Sasaki

Madison Community Council unanimously approved a plan that will transform the city. The Lake Monona Master Plan by design firm Sasaki has, thus far, passed unanimously through six committees, and the public overwhelmingly voted for it in a city-wide survey.

Here’s what to know.

The Plan

Sasaki aims to create an “accessible and activated waterfront that establishes a protected shoreline and empowers the voices of Madison’s past and present generations.”

The Boston-based firm developed a plan for a 37-acre linear park for Law Park, the John Nolen Drive causeway, and the northern portion of Olin Park.

An artist rendering of a lakeside causeway in winter with joggers and bicyclists.jpg

The Community Causeway would be the first phase of the waterfront plan to be built. | Rendering via Sasaki

Features include:

Community Causeway
The pedestrian and bicyclist zone running the length of the John Nolen Drive causeway will contain a Capitol view plaza, a dock with lake access, a boardwalk over the water, and fishing spots.

Lake Lounge
Connecting the state Capitol to the lake, the lounge would have a promenade, food truck staging areas, boat rentals, and an underpass at Broom Street and North Shore Drive leading to the plaza.

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Law Park Ledge would be a gathering place for larger events. | Rendering via Sasaki

Law Park Ledge
This large open space, to the east of Monona Terrace, could accommodate a wide range of community events.

Olin Overlook
This green oasis at Olin Park would include an elevated canopy walk and a nature center.

Other plan highlights:

  • Boathouse
  • Concession stands
  • Outdoor amphitheater
  • Story walk highlighting the voices of the Ho-Chunk Nation

    An artist rendering of an urban oasis with an elevated walkway and greenery.jpg

    Olin Overlook would include a new nature center. | Rendering via Sasaki

The Future

Progress on this project — which still needs funding and permitting — is expected to be incremental, and may take decades before all the elements are completed.

The first phase will be the Community Causeway portion, complementing the current reconstruction of John Nolen Drive. Construction could begin in 2027.

The city will host community engagement sessions this summer (dates TBD) regarding the design development of the Community Causeway phase.

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