Over the past couple months, the Downtown Coordinating Committee along with Tangible Consulting Services, a Minneapolis company specializing in “services to advance public goals and high-quality development,” has been studying ways to improve retail in Madison.
During their study, Tangible Consulting looked at the retail strategies of cities similar to Madison such as Ann Arbor, Mich., Raleigh, N.C. and Austin, Texas. The group’s report highlighted several aspects of improving an urban downtown such as communication with residents, the attractiveness of buildings and the establishment of an effective business organization to coordinate people around a common vision for the city.
While the study was being conducted, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, had already begun to take action on improving downtown retail. Soglin has begun to enact a prohibition on new restaurants and bars around State Street. In fact, Soglin has denied liquor licenses to pre-established restaurants such as Lotsa Stone Fired Pizza, but Common Council later overrode that veto.
Soglin’s worry that the abundant beverage businesses on State Street are hurting retail is not unwarranted, according to the report. The group noted in its review of Austin that “the concentration of bars and clubs meant the area was largely vacant all day,” and only could make money late at night.
The mayor has desired for a balanced combination of both restaurants and general merchandise retail. That “general merchandise” has been a leading revenue source in retail since the 1990s, according to a June committee presentation.
The Downtown Coordinating Committee will host a meeting in the Overture Center Thursday, Sept. 22 at 5:30 p.m. on State Street to discuss Soglin’s recent initiative to improve retail in downtown Madison.