Tag Archives: Downtown Madison WI

Revitalizing Downtown Madison Post Pandemic

Brad Binkowski

Between the pandemic and the protests, Brad Binkowski believes downtown Madison has gone through one of the most tumultuous years imaginable and looks now like it did in the 1980’s when retail moved out to the malls. He believes it’s important to remember what downtown was; imagine what it can be again; and take the steps necessary to get it there. He says private sector investment is a necessary component of that revival.

Brad stressed the importance of building underground parking to reactivate sidewalks for pedestrians and customers and said the city needs to help cover the extraordinary costs. He says underground parking is behind the success of Urban Land Interests’ development of Block 89 which turned vacant buildings and surface parking into 560,000 square feet of office space on a block that now has the highest assessed value in the city. Brad says multi-modal transportation is growing, but the reality is that tenants demand parking.

ULI is now looking to develop the American Exchange block on the square – a development that has been 23 years in the making. The project, which ULI hopes to start in 2022, will have 805 underground parking stalls and 300,000 square feet of office space targeted to tech companies. Brad says the revenue the block will generate will help the city advance other initiatives.

Brad believes Madison has extraordinary strengths: a quality of life that doesn’t exist in many other places; a labor pool that includes the highest percent of educated millennials; and the highest net in-migration of tech employees in the country. But he says we desperately need a vision of what downtown can be.

Brad closed by saying that Rotary is a force that is committed to a vision for downtown and is critical to creating a dialogue on a plan for downtown Madison and a strategy on how to get there.
Our thanks to Brad Binkowski for speaking this week and to Janet Piraino for preparing this review article. If you missed our meeting, you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/MRnkBjm9Cps.

“When you’re alone and life is making you lonely you can always go DOWNTOWN”

–submitted by Bob Dinndorf; photo by Mary O’Brien

Susaan Schmitz 7 20 16A musical introduction of the Rotary Club’s program was announced as guest presenter Susan Schmitz joined Bob Dinndorf as songleader for Petula Clark’s Downtown, accompanied by keyboard artist Lynn Phelps.

Downtown Madison Inc (DMI) started over forty years ago as urban sprawl to the east and west began to intensify. Three of DMI’s four founders were Rotarians and members of the Greater Madison Chamber board. As DMI grew it separated from the Chamber to become a self-sustaining entity. Two of its signature initiatives have successfully entered new generations: Frostiball is in the care of Overture and Paddle n’ Portage is carried on by Isthumus.

Today DMI boasts 500 members and administers assessed funds generated by the Central Business Improvement District which includes businesses around Capitol Square and along State Street. DMI continually advocates for a vital, healthy Downtown among city staff, alders, the mayor, county exec, UW Madison, Edgewood College, Madison College, Madison Police, Greater Madison Chamber and the Convention & Visitors Bureau, Madison Regional Economic Partnership, churches, neighborhood associations and many other individuals and organizations concerned about downtown Madison.

Bounded on the east by the Yahara River and on the west by Camp Randall, the originally platted in July 1836 for the City of Madison is used today as bounds for Downtown Madison, Inc. (DMI). The University of Wisconsin and the State Capitol Building, connected by State Street, (along of course, with the Rotary Club of Madison) were and continue to be anchors for Downtown.

Susan Schmitz, Executive Director of DMI, underscored the importance of downtown when she said there are more people living in urban areas than rural areas for the first time in history. She then painted by number a picture of the current “State of the Downtown.” A sampling:

  • Since 2000, downtown population has increased from 22,165 to more than 25,000
  • 3.56% apartment vacancy rate drives rental rates and construction
  • 93.9% of downtown residents are renters
  • 52.7% of Madison residents as a whole are renters
  • 40,000 meals were served to homeless people in 2014 by downtown churches
  • 560 places for day care are available downtown at Red Caboose and Creative Learning. More is needed
  • 44% of downtown employees work in public administration, 12% in hospitality, 8.2% in professional/technical occupations
  • 10.8% office vacancy is declining and needs to be in the 7-8% range
  • 40% of downtown businesses are classified as food and beverage businesses; a consistent number since 1998. Bars are not taking over!
  • 11.7% is the increase in Metro Bus ridership since 1010.
  • 149,385 bicyclists have been counted by the Eco-totem counters on Madison trails; an increase from 48,537

Much more can be added. Susan urged Rotarians to contact their alders to let them know our priorities and concerns so that they continue to make wise policy to govern the city.

Did you miss our meeting this week?  Watch the video here.