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“Lakefront Porch” project will give Madisonians a new spot to hangout downtown

There are big plans in the works for this site that sits along Wilson Street near John Nolen Drive
A project in downtown Madison is aiming to turn an often-overlooked public space into something more welcoming.
Published: May. 18, 2022 at 11:00 AM CDT|Updated: May. 18, 2022 at 6:00 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A project in downtown Madison is aiming to turn an often-overlooked public space into something more welcoming.

Crowley Station Community Garden is essentially a giant concrete slab owned by Madison Water Utility. The site sits near the intersection of Wilson Street and John Nolen Drive – prime real estate just off the capitol square. There are a few planters, wooden benches, and some old metal tables and chairs on the site. Other than that, the site sits pretty much empty.

Crowley Station Community Garden will still exist after the Lakefront Porch project is complete
Crowley Station Community Garden will still exist after the Lakefront Porch project is complete(Tim Elliott)

“I think the most common response is ‘oh where is that?’ said Emily DeVore. “This site sits at a gateway to downtown Madison.”

DeVore says in 2020 when the pandemic first started, people were looking for ways to gather safely outside. She saw a lot of potential in the Crowley Station site as a community gathering spot.

“I walked by every day and almost never saw anyone here,” she said. “I tried using the site myself and frankly, its uncomfortable during the best parts of the year because it gets so hot and there’s no respite from the sun.”

That’s how she came up with the idea for the Lakefront Porch Project. The plan is to turn Crowley Station into a place where people can gather with friends, read a book, or have a cup of coffee while overlooking Lake Monona.

Bert Stitt and Emily DeVore and two of the several people behind the Lakefront Porch project
Bert Stitt and Emily DeVore and two of the several people behind the Lakefront Porch project(Tim Elliott)

“We envision that this place has the potential to turn an underused space into an iconic space that is integral into the everyday lives of residents and in the inviting image of downtown,” said DeVore.

Bert Stitt has lived in the neighborhood for 25 years and is excited to see this project get off the ground.

“In many ways, it’s way underutilized. To the degree that we got the gardens and so forth, that’s good, but it could be much more beautiful,” said Stitt.

Saiki Designs is a landscape architecture firm based in Madison. They have come up with some renderings of what the space will look like.

Another rendering from Saiki Design
Another rendering from Saiki Design(Saiki Design)

“Well, my response is that they are wonderful to the degree that we can achieve all of it, let’s do it,” said Stitt. “And this is another step up and it’s important that we do it,”

DeVore wants to add plenty of shade and some composite decking to cool down the ground.

“So, it’s going to raise people up about 18 inches or so off of this concrete to allow them a beautiful view of the lake and it’s also going to allow the space to not be so hot, the concrete right now retains so much heat,” she said.

DeVore is hoping to raise about $525,000 for the project – a goal that she is confident they will reach.

“It’s really exciting. I feel so grateful. I can’t believe how many people have come and backed this project,” she said.

DeVore says the project came together after many community discussions and input from people who live in the neighborhood. The Crowley Station Community Garden will continue to exist there once the renovations are complete.

DeVore hopes to begin construction on the project in the spring of 2023 and have it completed by the end of that summer.

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