75th Anniversary Grant #1: Evolution Madison featuring Nolen Waterfront and Future Possible: Imagining Madison

Part 1: Nolen Waterfront: A Vision for Our Time

MCF awarded $27,500 to explore the Nolen Waterfront Plan, a visionary idea for a nine-acre waterfront park in the heart of downtown Madison. The grant funds an in-depth assessment of how the space between Monona Terrace and Machinery Row could be completely redone, with a huge park on top, boardwalk, Frank Lloyd Wright’s boathouse, seasonal gardens, concert space, and an upgraded Blair Street intersection. The grant will provide early-stage funding for a feasibility and cost assessment of three key components of what is expected to be a long-term, multi-million dollar transformation: a roof deck park over John Nolen Drive, Blair intersection improvements, and shoreline improvements that include wetlands and boardwalk, a support structure for the 1893 Frank Lloyd Wright Boathouse and transient docking.

Madison Community Foundation's grant support of the work of the design team inspired the City of Madison Common Council to approve $500,000 in the 2018 Capital Budget for planning, technical, and schematic design work for improvements to Law Park, including ways to improve water quality and sustainability.

Nolen Waterfront is a transformational idea that may take decades to come to fruition. The project is the result of architects, urban planners, and environmental designers dreaming of the future, while also harking back to the original visions of Wright and John Nolen, who created a master plan for the city of Madison in 1909.

If fully realized, Nolen Waterfront will provide an exciting array of community benefits, including:

  • Connectivity. A series of levels will allow barrier free access for pedestrians and bicyclists between the lakefront, Monona Terrace and the  downtown.
  • Economic Opportunity. Similar to visionary projects in other cities around the country, the Nolen Waterfront will be a catalyst for new real estate investment, increased tax base, new business and job creation, and tourism.
  • Historic Preservation. The Nolen Waterfront will include the 1893 Frank Lloyd Wright Boathouse originally planned for the site but never built. The boathouse will be the centerpiece and focal point for the new park, and could include a Frank Lloyd Wright museum, visitor center, and aquatic center with transient docking. 
  • Placemaking. By capitalizing on one of Madison’s strongest assets–the natural beauty of its lakes–the Nolen Waterfront will become an iconic place and destination for Madison residents and visitors.
  • Social Equity. The Nolen Waterfront will be planned and programmed to become Madison’s “Living Room,” a diverse and family-centered destination place where everyone across social, economic and racial divides can feel comfortable coming together for social interaction, recreation, entertainment and scenic enjoyment. 
  • Sustainability. The reduction of impervious surfaces and creation of wetlands,  biolfiltration basins, green roofs and other green design features will reduce stormwater runoff  and improve water quality. Decking over John Nolen Drive will reduce noise and improve air quality for the park and the surrounding neighborhood, and the park’s southerly orientation will facilitate the use of solar as an alternative energy source for the park.
  • Transportation. Improvements to Madison’s most congested intersection will create a simpler and safer thoroughfare.

Part 2: Future Possible: Imagining Madison

MCF awarded $25,000 to Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters for Future Possible: Imagining Madison, an arts and design project that imagines Madison 75 years from now and evokes a broad spectrum of future possibilities. Artwork for this show, held at Overture Center’s James Watrous Gallery from February 16-April 15, 2018, will be created by a diverse group of artists, architects, and other designers in collaboration with community members who have a stake in our city’s future. 

The exhibit will center on the drawings, models, and work in other media created through this process, accompanied by wall panels describing the community collaborations. It will also include examples of speculative designs from the past by architects like John Nolen, Frank Lloyd Wright, William Wesley Peters and Kenton Peters. 

The goals are to produce an engaging exhibition that encourages out-of-the-box thinking about Madison’s future cityscape; to create a meaningful experience for participants and local viewers; to showcase and promote the artists and other project participants; and to welcome new audiences to the gallery.

$1,000 Legacy Society Matching Gift

During our anniversary year each new legacy commitment will be honored with a $1,000 matching gift.


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