Lake Monona Waterfront - Preliminary Report

Last Updated: 02/12/2021

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Lake Monona Waterfront - The Study Area for Law Park is Expanding!

The focus of the Preliminary Report is expanding beyond Law Park to include the John Nolen Drive causeway bike path and the northern portion of Olin Park. The revised study area now includes over 1.4 miles of Lake Monona shoreline and 14 acres of parkland.

The original project area for the report included Law Park and the air space over John Nolen Drive (east and west of the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center). With the reconstruction of John Nolen Drive anticipated in 2026, the expanded planning scope is an opportunity to develop a cohesive vision for the west shore of Lake Monona. The project area is now referred to as the Lake Monona Waterfront.

Revised Study Area

Community outreach for the revised planning area included additional community and stakeholder meetings to gather park user input on desired park and shore improvements. The new engagement work builds upon the previously collected community input and will be consolidated in the Preliminary Report. The Preliminary Report is a pre-design document that will serve as the basis of a future masterplan effort for the Lake Monona Waterfront.

Preliminary Report Development

The City of Madison Parks Division worked with a consultant team led by SmithGroup to engage area residents, park users and project stakeholders on desired improvements in the planning area.  The community engagement utilized a multifaceted approach including 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). Public outreach included information on the planning area's history, previous planning efforts, current amenities and examples of how other municipalities are reconnecting with their waterfronts. The consultant team also conducted a thorough technical and regulatory review to identify opportunities and constraints for future park development. The results of the community engagement process and site investigation are being compiled into the final report that will be completed in 2021.

Public Workshops for the Lake Monona Waterfront

The Parks Division held four public workshops for area residents and park users to share community needs, explore potential opportunities, and help determine what an improved lakefront can mean for the greater Madison community.

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
Law Park Survey

The survey for Law Park is now closed as the consultant team prepares the final report. Please email your thoughts & ideas to, subscribe to receive updates on the project, and encourage friends, neighbors, and family to do the same!

Project Background

Law Park is a 4.7-acre green space that offers over 2,500 feet of shoreline three blocks from the Capitol Square. The 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 Law 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”. The Preliminary Report project is the first step in creating a signature public space on the shore of Lake Monona.

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 ammended to include the expanded planning area in the report.

Questions or comments regarding the Law Park Preliminary Report  can be sent to:

Project updates will be posted to this site as they become available.

Most recent update 1/10/20