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Lake Monona Waterfront Design Challenge: Final Reveal

We are thrilled to unveil our design for the Lake Monona Waterfront Design Challenge! Over the past few months – as one of three teams selected to compete on the Lake Monona Waterfront Design Challenge – the Agency team dove deep into analysis and research, explored design options, created a draft framework plan, and talked with community members and stakeholders along the way!

Madison’s future treatment of Lake Monona offers the chance to reflect City values to be equitable, welcoming, and environmentally healthy. While there have been ambitious plans and much to applaud about the Lake’s evolution, there is much unmet potential today. Climate change, community open space needs, and shifts in transportation patterns have increased the urgency to fully leverage the Lake’s role in contemporary Madison.

This Framework Plan imagines a revival for Lake Monona – one that honors layers of the past while embracing a powerful long-term vision for all of the community.

A Healthy and Functional Ecosystem
The first foundational move of this Framework Plan is to establish a living shoreline for the entire 1.7 miles of the site. A living shoreline is an ecologically restored and dynamic edge that provides multiple benefits, including water quality enhancement, improved habitat value, and more seasonal beauty.

Safe and Welcoming Paths for All
The highest need reported by the Madison community in all feedback is for safe access to, from, and along the Lake Monona waterfront. This Framework Plan delivers on the desire for multiple, separated paths that allow for different types of movement. Frequent overpasses and underpasses allow for safe passage across John Nolen Drive.

Vital and Active Through the Seasons
The Monona Lakefront comprises three districts, each offering distinct activities appropriate to the location, ecology, and community values. The City District offers a signature, urban waterfront, hilltop park with event spaces, active fitness, play, and extensive lake viewing areas. The Causeway District provides a nature-engaged journey along the Lake’s restored marsh edge with fishing, bird-watching and meditation. The Park District balances new uses at the existing Olin Park with desires to respect the park’s neighborhood qualities, providing the Southside a lakefront of its own.

Our team includes MSR DesignKimley-Horn and AssociatesraSmithMCCSpoken Frame Media, and special contributions by Enrique Cavelier, Victoria Freeman, and Cristian Umana.

Provide your input on the three plans through an online survey, here! And head to the City of Madison’s website ( to view the three submissions or watch the final presentations.

Click and download your favorite postcard: