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Designers tweak proposal to revamp public space along Madison’s Lake Monona

Latest rendition includes an underpass connecting north and south Madison at John Nolen Drive

A rendering of a redesign for the Lake Monona waterfront in Madison.
Sasaki, a Denver-based design firm, submitted this rendering to the city of Madison in response a challenge seeking a redesign for nearly two miles of waterfront along Lake Monona. Photo courtesy of the City of Madison

A fishing pier along Monona Terrace and an underpass for cyclists and pedestrians are among the tweaks to a design firm’s proposal to revamp the shoreline along Madison’s Lake Monona.

Architects with the Denver-based design firm Sasaki discussed their latest proposals during a public meeting this week.

The suggested changes include adding a fishing pier at Monona Terrace, as well as replacing plans for a filled-in beach at Olin Park with a naturally occurring wetland.

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“We really have some incredible opportunities to do education, to talk about what these living wetlands are doing, how can we clean the water, but then also create great fishing habitat,” Sasaki architect Anna Cawrse said.

An earlier design recommended adding an overpass. The latest rendition would replace that with an underpass for cyclists and pedestrians at John Nolen Drive, the busy thoroughfare that crosses the lake to connect north and south Madison. Cawrse said the firm suggested the underpass after receiving feedback calling for more separation between different modes of transportation.

“The underpass is this incredible gateway entrance, this opportunity to experience and sort of open up onto the waterfront and then sort of choose your path as you come out and move along,” she said.

Architects are considering building a seawall at the underpass — or even raising John Nolen Drive by several feet to make room.

“We need to keep studying and look at if that’s a possibility,” Cawrse said. “But it would be great if we could raise that, so that the underpass really brings you out above water.”

In all, the Lake Monona redesign spans 1.7 miles of shoreline and 17 acres of public green space.

A final price tag for the project remains uncertain, but a holistic vision known as a master plan could be presented to Madison’s Common Council this fall for approval by year’s end. Construction would likely take multiple phases.

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