Officials expect changes on State Street to continue

Although Forever Yogurt and Smokes on State recently joined Cosi and Diego’s Mexican Bistro on a growing list of State Street venues that have closed, the rate of closures on State Street is nothing new, according to Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4.

“I think a big part of [the closures] is that the rents are so much higher,” Ald. Zach Wood, District 8, said. “There is that inherent overhead cost which then means that [as a business] you need to remain really profitable all the time.”

Calling it “very difficult to survive,” Verveer echoed Wood in his characterization of State Street business competition.

“Some of the businesses that are no longer open this semester were favorites [among] many students,” Verveer said. “Forever Yogurt is the one I hear about the most.”

The company that owned Forever Yogurt, however, still holds the space’s lease, although the company’s future plans are unknown at this time.

The owners of Smokes on State, in contrast, chose to move to Sun Prairie, a market with higher demand for their product, according to Verveer.

Despite these closures, the State Street area will soon see new businesses enter the scene.

The Hub, an apartment complex designed to include more than a dozen retail spaces in addition to 361 residential units, will open in fall 2015. Most of the retail spaces will feature restaurants, Verveer said.

“I don’t love how [The Hub] is on the high-end of affordability,” Wood said, citing a need for more residential units. “The vacancy rate in the downtown area is one of the lowest in the country.”

The city council also recently approved a planning process for the future of the entire downtown area.

“[The plan includes] everything from the debated issue of a healthy retail mix versus bars and restaurants … to the issue of should State Street be made a historic district.” Verveer, said in a March interview.

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