Downtown Madison, WI

Madison’s Downtown comprises the State Capitol and the oldest residential neighborhoods of Madison. Collectively Downtown is also referred to as the Capitol Neighborhoods as it is in reality more of a quilt of several smaller districts that independently grew into a larger Downtown neighborhood. I expand the Capitol Neighborhoods District a bit for this evaluation to include almost everything between Blair and Park Avenue.  In the SE quadrant is the First Settlement, the oldest part of Madison first settled in 1837. The western half is call Miffland & Bassett, an area famous for its counter-cultural revolution in the 60s & 70s now an interesting mixed-use district. Abutting the University and along Lake Mendota is the State-Langdon District, home to many great historic mansions and many early 20th revival bldgs now owned by many fraternities & sororities. In the Northeast quadrant is the Mansion Hill District, which contains some wonderfully preserved mid-late 19th century housing but also feeds right to the Capitol Building.

Downtown Madison is perhaps the best mid-sized Downtown in American. This is mostly thanks to its great density, and mixed-use character that feeds seamlessly into the historic part of the University of Wisconsin via State Street, a vibrant pedestrian mall converted in 1974. The Dwtn is also designed with an elevated State House forming its heart with diagonal streets coming off its corners and cutting through Dwtn. Dwtn’s fabric is also unhindered by any freeways helping it to preserve most of its urban fabric and contains great retail, cultural, and recreational amenities. Dwtn  boasts a great array of housing diversity (esp. rental) while still being a major employment center. Some small areas that Downtown could improve upon include housing more walkable schools, which could attract more families. There are also some autocentric stretches/surface lots along Washington Blvd and the First Settlement subdistrict that could use better infill. These areas are also a bit sparse with retail amenities.

Click to view my Downtown album, my State-Langdon album and my Mansion Hill album on Flickr


* This is one of the most dense and populated Downtown’s in America( only New York and Chicago have more dense Downtowns). Very impressive especially for a City of Madison’s size. It is twice as dense as the second most dense mid-sized metro (Lancaster).
* Thanks to several leafy residential pockets Downtown Madison has solid tree canopy for a Downtown.
* Madison has good public transit throughout Dwtn and the inner city neighborhood and decent access to the new parts of the City. Ok to poor service in the suburbs.
* Madison has no interstate highways that penetrated Dwtn and the inner City. Instead one must exist I-90 and I-94 and drive in for 15 minutes on the east side or take route 14-18 that loop south  of the Downtown. This is certainly the ideal in my opinion as it provides decent auto access to Dwtn but keeps it in tact.
* Well gridded Dwtn with the addition of 4 diagonals radiating from the capitol bldgs. Dwtn does well at avoiding wide streets but its maze of one-way streets can be rather confusing.
* Excellent bike infrastructure including great bike lane connectivity throughout most of the City and into the suburbs and dedicated bike stations within almost all of the pre WWII neighborhoods.
* Excellent racial and economic diversity from residents living here.
* Lots of rental supply and diversity. Tons of studios and 1-beds that lease btwn $800-2K, 2-beds lease btwn the low 1Ks-low 2Ks, lots of 3-beds leasing btwn the low 1Ks to mid 2Ks and even some 4 beds btwn the mid 1Ks to 4K. There also appears to be a fair amount of dedicated affordable hsg dwtn.
* Decent amount and diversity of for-sale housing too with 1-bed condos selling btwn 200K-500K, 2-beds sell btwn 300K-1M, and a good number of 3 & 4 beds for a dwtn selling btwn 400K- the low 1Ms.
* Solid park amenities including lots of lake front parks, several attractive plazas throughout dwtn, Alumni Park and Library mall near Dwtn, the UW recreational center, and the well activated Capitol Square, a strong civic heart.
* Excellent cultural amenities including tons of food beverage bizs, good # of art galleries, several live music venues, theaters, and night clubs, a indie theater, several quality museums, and all the University of Wisc. Cultural amenities.. For regional amenities the City has a decent convention center, a couple sports arenas (UW).
* Tons of government jobs dwtn with both city and state offices concentrated here. About 50K jobs in Dwtn Madison.
* Great retail amenities including a target, a couple supermarkets, a DGX, a couple drug stores, plenty of banks, plenty of clothing stores gift shops, and home good stores, a bookstore, a hardware store, tons of dessert joint & Gyms, Dwtn Library & post office.


* Generational diversity is rather poor due to the overwhelming college age/young adults living in the Capitol Neighborhoods District.
* Only one walkable elementary school within the Dwtn area. A couple good schools in neighboring districts but not really walkable to Dwtn.
* Retail amenities are a bit light in the First Settlement and Mansion Hill Districts.
* As nothing is taller than the State Capital building not a striking skyline in Madison, although I respect the City’s decision to do this. I actually don’t mind the mid-rise skyline this has created allowing the capital building to shine.
* Generally excellent form throughout Madison but a good amount of autocentric uses along Washington Avenue and some surface parking lots in the First Settlement area. Not surprisingly this is also where the dead spots are Dwtn.

Madison’s Regent Neighborhood- A leafy early 20th century district surrounded by the University of Wisconsin and Wingra Park

Regent (aka University Heights) is one of Madison’s first suburbs, platted in 1893. Located close to the University, its curvilinear streets and beautiful vistas attracted many university families. It also contains homes produced by several famous architectures (i.e.  Keck and Keck, George W. Maher, Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright). Regent’s retail and cultural amenities are mainly contained to the small commercial node at University and Highland Avenues. A good amount of retail and cultural amenities are located in the University of Wisconsin, which surrounds Regent to the North and East, and the Wingra Park neighborhood to the south. The western side of Regent includes a large cemetery and several newer neighborhoods that contain great park amenities.

The Regent neighborhood also does well with high density, good public transit access, well ranked public high school and elementary school, a couple dedicated bike lanes, a good # of smaller rentals, great tree canopy, and a very safe community. For Regent to become a great urban neighborhood it needs more retail and cultural amenities within its borders, more affordable for-sale options, better park amenities, and improved urban massing along University Ave,

Click here to view my Regent Album on Flickr


* Solid urban density,
* Quality access to public transit
* Overall good ADA and sidewalk infrastructure but some dated ADA curb cuts.
* Good connectivity but some pretty curvilinear streets.
* Good bike infrastructure with dedicated bike lanes running the length of the northern and southern borders. A couple dedicated bike stations as well.
* Great generational diversity with a good mix of kids, students, professors.
* Decent walkable schools with a quality public high school and elementary school located within the neighborhood.
* Good # of rental options. 1-beds range anywhere in the 1Ks, 2-beds btwn 1.5K-2.5K, 3-beds btwn 1.5K to the high 2Ks.
* Solid tree canopy.
* Attractive 1910s-1930s single family homes.
* Very safe community overall.
* Okay cultural amenities within Regent including several restaurants, a couple of bars & cafes, a couple art galleries concentrated mostly at the University and Highland intersections. As Regent is surrounded by the UW to the North and East lots of museums and Cineplex, and performing are nearby. To the south are more cultural and retail amenities in the Wingra Park and Greenbush business districts.


* Residents here are generally very well off but the student population does add some economic diversity.
* Not a ton of for sale housing diversity. Most for sale housing product is pretty expensive here. A handful of 1-bed condos that sell btwn 200K-400K,  Some 2-bed selling btwn 275K-550K, 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 375K-1 M
* Park and recreational space are a bit limited within Regent to a couple pocket parks and 2 medium sized recreational parks next to the High School and Middle Schools. While not necessarily walkable to most residents there are two large parks west of the Regent neighborhood and a couple pool.
* Retail amenities are pretty limited within the Regent neighborhood but include a supermarket, a couple gift shops & banks, some dessert joints, an antique store, a couple salons, and a couple churches. Decent # of retail amenities in the Wingra Park commercial districts several blocks south.
* Urban massing and streetscaping along University is a mixed bag of historic bldgs, mid-century more autocentric structures, and more urban modern mixed-use bldgs.

Dudgeon-Monroe: One of Madison’s Trendiest Urban Districts

Dudgeon-Monroe shares the active Monroe business district with adjacent Wingra Park but also picks up Monroe further westward away from Downtown. Past Edgewood College Monroe becomes more mixed-use but still holds a couple solid business nodes. From an urban perspective Dudgeon-Monroe also excels at having great access to park amenities, comfortable 1910s-1940s housing, convenient access to Dwtn and the University, excellent tree canopy, a high level of safety, and quality urban massing running up and down Monroe Street.

For Dudgeon-Monroe to become a great urban district it needs more density, sidewalk infrastructure in the southern 1/3 of the neighborhood, better public transit access, more economic and racial diversity, more walkable schools, and much better housing diversity as for sale housing is expensive here and there are few apartments especially 1-bedrooms and studios.

Click here to view my Dudgeon-Monroe album on Flickr


* Great ADA infrastructure and sidewalks.
* An excellent recreational trail runs the northern edge of the neighborhood along with a couple other shorter  bike lanes. A couple dedicated bike stations as well.
* Great generational diversity with a good mix of kids, students, professors.
* Excellent tree canopy throughout most of the district.
* Great park amenities with expansive and varied lakefront acreage covering the entire length of the district. Attractive quad space at Edgewood College.
* Very safe community.
* Good cultural amenities including plenty of restaurants & bars, several cafes, several art galleries including a local neighborhood art gallery, a couple community theaters, a couple breweries, some good cultural amenities at the nearby Edgewood College.
* Good retail amenities as well including a Trader Joe’s, a pharmacy, a couple banks, a wine store, a bookstore, lots of gift stores/boutiques and creative stores, a several dessert joints, a couple gyms, a public library, several dessert joints, plenty of gyms, and a couple churches.
* Solid historic and modern architecture.
* Generally good urban massing but some auto centric wholes the further away from Dwtn you go along Monroe St.
* One of Madison’s trendier neighborhoods


* So so density.
* The southern 1/3 of the district has no sidewalks. Newer 40 & 50s development here.
* Some more curvilinear streets in parts of the district but connectivity is still retained throughout.
* Public transit is so so here.
* Pretty poor economic and racial diversity.
* No schools within Wingra Park but a quality public high school and elementary schools on the northern edge of the district in adjacent Regent neighborhood.
* Rentals are very limited but especially 1-beds. Some 2-beds available that lease around 2K.
* Not a ton of for sale housing diversity. Everything is pretty expensive here. A handful of 1-bed condos that sell btwn 300K-600K,  Some 2-bed selling btwn 325K-650K, 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 375K-885K

Wingra Park- A highly Intellectual/Artistic Urban Community located between Edgewood College and University of Wisconsin

Wingra Park (aka Vilas) is a very attractive turn of the 20th century district lined with gorgeous historic homes, an intact streetcar business district running down Monroe Ave and wonderful park and lake front access. It also is located between Edgewood College and the University of Wisconsin-Madison creating a very intellectual artistic community vibe.

The Monroe street business district provides Wingra Park with solid retail and cultural amenities, and good walkability. Public Transit and bike infrastructure could be better but sufficient enough to provide a diversity of modal options. Wingra Park also have great street connectivity, convenient access to Dwtn, high levels of safety, and a great tree canopy. Major areas for improvement from an urban perspective include more walkable schools, better racial diversity, more 1-bedroom apartment options, and improved urban in-fill along Regent Street.

Click here to view my Wingra Park Album on Flickr


* Good urban density.
* Generally very good ADA and sidewalk infrastructure but some missing sidewalks and older ADA sidewalks near Vilas Park.
* Very good access to Downtown.
* Great street connectivity.
* Decent economic and generational diversity.
* Great tree canopy in Wingra Park.
* Wonderful array of historic homes and mansions throughout Wingra Park.
* Solid urban in-fill and urban form along Monroe St. Great streetscaping as well.
* Solid park amenities with the expansive Lakefront Vilas Park side along its southern park and the hilltop park of Bear Mound Park.
* Solid retail amenities including a Trader Joe’s, a pharmacy, a couple banks, a wine store, a bookstore, a couple clothing stores, tons of gift stores and creative stores, a several dessert joints, a couple gyms, a public library
* Good cultural amenities as well including several restaurants & bars, a couple cafes & breweries, a couple art galleries, a neighborhoods arts gallery, a couple local theaters, and some good cultural amenities at nearby Edgewood College.
* Very safe community.


* Some bike infrastructure including a couple dedicated bike stations and a recreational bike trail running along the neighborhood’s northern border.
* Racial diversity is very limited. Over 90% Caucasian.
* No schools within Wingra Park but a quality public high school and elementary schools in the adjacent Regent neighborhood.
* No a ton of for sale housing diversity. Everything is pretty expensive here. Some 2-bed selling btwn 425K-525, 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 400K- 1 M.
* Rentals are pretty limited esp. 1-bedrooms. A couple 1-beds lease around 1.5K, Some more 2-bed options also leasing in the mid 1Ks.
* Semi-auto centric biz district along Regent St.
* Missing neighborhood amenities include a lack of churches, doctor offices, a post office, and a hardware store.

Greenbush- A comfortable early 20th Century Madison neighborhood sandwiched between two lakes

Greenbush takes its name from the Historic Greenbush Addition, which served as the first home of many Italian and Eastern European immigrants.  The neighborhood offers a wide variety of homes, from efficiency apartments to new condominiums to attractive historic homes from the early 20th century.  It also has a convenient location only 1.5 miles from Downtown and the University of Wisconsin, has good urban density, solid public transit access, wonderful park amenities, and convenient access to 3 hospitals.

To become a great urban district Greenbush needs to built out its semi-auto centric commercial districts along Regent St. and Park St with quality urban mixed-use in-fill. This would create a more cohesive urban biz district and hopefully also add much needed cultural and retail amenities. Greenbush also lacks walkable schools, 1-bedroom apartments, and limited bike infrastructure.

Click here to view my Greenbush album on Flickr


* Solid density
* Very convenient to Dwtn across all modes. Decent public transit access.
* Overall a very connected grid system.
* Good economic diversity with the mix of professionals and students living in the neighborhood.
* Decent for sale diversity but on the expensive side. Some 1-bed condos selling in the 200Ks. 2-beds sell anywhere btwn 300K-500K. 3&4 beds sell btwn 350K-700K.
* Great park access with Wingra Lake Park, Villas Park, and Brittangam Park bordering the neighborhood. Greenbush also has the Edward Klief Park with a playground and ballfields.
* Very safe community overall.
* Solid tree canopy.
* Attractive historic housing and decent modern in-fill. Some good mixed-use in-fill but also a good about a auto centric crude.
* Greenbush is a generally in demand neighborhood with a positive image.
* Decent cultural amenities including  the Madison Zoo, the UW Arboretum, a beach, a handful of restaurants, a couple cafes & breweries, and plenty of bars, a couple art galleries and a few live music venues. Decent access, however, to the cultural amenities in Dwtn and the University of Wisconsin.


* Sidewalk infrastructure is good. Modern ADA curbs are mostly limited to the biz districts (Regent and Park) and largely missing on the residential streets.
* So so bike infrastructure with one dedicated bike lane on the eastern edge and one bike station.
* So so diversity and poor generational diversity thanks to the large student population living here.
* No schools within the Greenbush, a couple good options in adjacent neighborhoods that I would consider somewhat walkable.
* Limited studio and 1-bedroom rental options. Some 2-beds leasing in the 1Ks and a good # of 3-beds available leasing around 2K.
* Retail amenities are pretty limited. But they are some amenities including a couple banks, three major hospitals, a book store, a large bike shop, a couple floral shops, a couple salons & banks, a shoe store, an Asian grocerias.
* Urban massing is a mixed-bag. Decent streetscaping however.

Tenney-Lapham- Attractive Turn of the Century Madison Neighborhood

Tenney-Lapham was mostly built up during the turn of the 20th century  fueled by the growth of the Fuller and Johnson Company located along East Washington Avenue. In general homes near Washington Ave are more working class and modest in character while those along the Lake running down Sherman Avenue are more grand and elaborate. Johnston Ave is the business district running down the spine of the neighborhood a solid district with a fair amount of homes mixed in. Washington Ave (Aka Route 151) has seen significant redevelopment over the past decade quickly erasing its gritty industrial history for dense compact development.

Tenney-Lapham also excels at walkability, good density, solid public transit and bike infrastructure, great housing diversity, numerous parks & recreational trails, quality cultural and retail amenities, solid architecture (both historic and modern), and a high level of safety. What Tenney-Lapham needs the most is more walkable schools. There are none within the neighborhood. It also lacks significant racial diversity, some major retail amenities and still has some dead spots in need of redevelopment along Route 151.

Click here to view my Tenney-Lapham Album on Flickr


* Good density
* Good sidewalks and ADA infrastructure but about 1/3 of all curb cuts don’t have current ADA ramps.
* Sold bike infrastructure with a couple dedicated lanes and bike stations.
* Excellent access to Dwtn across all modes of transit.
* Sold connectivity in the street grid.
* Decent economic and generational diversity.
* For sale runs a bit expensive but good variety and price range. Plenty of 1-beds selling btwn 250K-500K, 2-beds for 300K-500K, 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 325K-1 M.
* Great # of rental options ranging from cheap to more expensive.. Studios 1-beds range anywhere from $600 to 1.5K, 2-beds btwn 1K-2.5K, 3-beds btwn 1.5Ks to 2Ks. Even some 4 beds available a bit more expensive.
* Wonderful park amenities with the expansive and water filled Tenney Park, recreational trails both along the Lakefront and river, and several other nice small-medium sized parks.
* Good cultural amenities including lots of bars, breweries, and cafes. Also some restaurants, and a couple of art galleries and live music venues. a comedy club, and several performing arts venues. Convenient access to all the cultural amenities dwtn too.
* Decent retail amenities including a full service supermarket, several boutiques/clothing stores, a bike store, a couple banks, plenty of salons/bar shops, a couple dessert joints and gyms, a handful of churches, and a post office.
* Overall a very safety community.
* Great tree canopy except for the block around 151.
* Quality historic and in-fill architecture throughout most of the district.


* Pretty limited racial diversity.
* No schools within the Tenney-Lapham district, a couple decent options in adjacent neighborhoods but only one would I consider walkable.
* Missing retail amenities include a pharmacy, hardware store, a bookstore,  a public library, no hospitals in the area, and few doctor’s offices.
* Still some auto centric and industrial buildings along 151 Highway but this traditional autocentric corridor is quicky becoming dense and mixed-use.

Marquette- One of Madison’s most Sought after Urban Districts and Host of Le Fête de Marquette

Marquette is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Madison with some homes dating back to the mid 19th century closest to Downtown. The district’s fabric shifts more to the turn of the 20th century as it expands Northeast of Downtown. Marquette is well known for its Greek Revival, Italianate, Late Picturesque, and Arts & Crafts Bungalows architectural styles.

In the current day Marquette is one of Madison’s most sought after neighborhoods thanks to its walkable fabric, quirky vibe, haven for foodies, nightlife, the arts, and festival destination. The district also excels at providing excellent park amenities, diverse housing choices, and quality public transit and bike access. Williamson Street is the main commercial spine spanning most of the length of the neighborhood but there is also the node of Winnebago St & Atwood in the Northeast corner and the expanding mixed-use district along Highway 151 redeveloping a once industrial area. The portion of Marquette between the railroad and 151 was once one of Madison’s most industrial areas and home to a major power plant. This is still the lease attractive portion of the neighborhood but is fortunately undergoing an urban transformation. To become a great urban district Marquette could use more density, better racial diversity, and important retail amenities like a local pharmacy, library, better medical options and more church options.

Click here to view my Marquette Album on Flickr


* Solid ADA infrastructure and sidewalks most curbs where up to ADA standards.
* Great access to Dwtn among all modes of transit.
* Good # of dedicated bike lanes and bike stations throughout Marquette.
* Good economic and generational diversity.
* Overall a very safe community.
* A decent # of quality schools in Marquette and nearby.
* Good # of rental options. 1-beds range anywhere in the 1Ks, 2-beds are slightly more expensive, 3-beds btwn high 1Ks and mid 2Ks.
* For sale runs a bit expensive but good variety and price range. Plenty of 1-beds selling btwn 200K-500K, 2-beds for 230K-600K, 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 300K-900K.
* Excellent park amenities with many small and medium parks spread throughout the neighborhood. There are also several lakefront/riverfront parks, the extensive McPike Park, and the Capital City Trail runs the length of the neighborhood.
* Good tree canopy overall.
* Lots of quality modern in-fill spread through the district showing the health of the community. Attractive historic homes and generally good historic commercial bldgs.
* Great cultural amenities including plenty of food & beverage bizs, lots of breweries, several art galleries, lots of live music venues, some night clubs, several local theaters and convenient access to Dwtn’s cultural amenities.
* Good retail amenities including several supermarkets, some clothing/boutiques, several banks, a hardware & bike store, lots of furniture/home good stores, a bookstore, several gift shops/creative stores, plenty of dessert shops & gyms, and a local post office.
* Generally good urban form and streetscaping. Highway 151 was historically pretty auto centric but has been making great improvement the last decade with dense mixed-use bldgs. Still more improvement needed though.
* One of Madison’s most sought after districts.


* So so density
* Racial diversity is pretty lacking is this is ~ 85% white.
* Missing a local pharmacy & local library,  few churches are here, and the nearest hospital is 3 miles away,
* Some tree dead spots especially near highway 151 which is a recovering industrial area.