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Madison to engage community on Lake Monona Waterfront Design Challenge

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In August 2022, Madison selected three finalists in its Lake Monona Waterfront Design Challenge, aimed at creating a “visionary, inclusive and environmentally focused master plan” for 1.7 miles of shoreline and 17 acres of Madison’s foremost public lakefront. Planners are looking for concepts that can better connect neighborhoods and residents to the lake, improve water quality and preserve the lake's cultural history. Take a brief tour of this stretch of shoreline, which runs from Williamson Street to Olin Park.

Madison is offering a series of public events on the Lake Monona waterfront design challenge, including a “kick off” to engage with three nationally renowned finalists, a later check-in on progress, and then presentations on proposed master plans.

In July, the city’s special 13-member ad hoc committee chose Agency Landscape + Planning, of Cambridge, Massachusetts; James Corner Field Operations, of New York; and Sasaki, of Denver, from among 14 heavyweight firms that responded to a request for qualifications to craft a master plan to reimagine the Lake Monona waterfront between Olin Park and Williamson Street.

The forthcoming plans are intended to better connect Capitol Square and neighborhoods to the lake, improve water quality and aquatic habitat, celebrate Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural legacy and preserve the lake’s cultural history.

Lake Monona - fishing

Madison has set a series of public events to provide community engagement with the Lake Monona Waterfront Design Challenge, where three finalists are vying to craft a master plan to reimagine the lakefront between Olin Park and Williamson Street.

Now, the city has scheduled the event series to give the community a chance to learn more about the design challenge.

The events include:

Design Challenge Kick-Off, 6 p.m. Oct. 3 at the Madison Central Library, Rooms 301-302, 201 W. Mifflin St. Design teams will livestream to the event and introduce themselves and their teams’ unique perspective on master plan development.

Design Challenge Check-In, 6 p.m. Nov. 7 at Monona Terrace, Lecture Hall, 1 John Nolen Drive. The teams will present initial thoughts and concepts online in developing a master plan vision for the Lake Monona Waterfront.

Design Challenge Master Plan Presentations, 6 p.m. Jan. 26, at the Parks Division’s Olin Park Facility, 330 E. Lakeside St. The teams will present in person their proposed master plans for the Lake Monona Waterfront.

The events will also be streamed to the Madison City Channel for remote viewing.

The Lake Monona Waterfront Project is tied to plans to transform a two-story building and 3.65 acres of shoreline next to Olin Park, purchased by the city in 2019, into a community amenity with Parks Division offices; the reconstruction of John Nolen Drive, slated for 2026; and creation of the “Destination District” around the Alliant Energy Center, aimed at connecting the South Side to the lake and Downtown.

The city will spend $75,000 apiece on the three finalists — half of which is privately funded — for design challenge stipends, and another $200,000 for the chosen team to refine the preferred master plan.

The special committee is expected to recommend a preferred master plan to the mayor, City Council and Park Commission by Sept. 1, 2023.

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