State Street: Then vs. now

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- It's one of the most iconic streets known in Madison--State Street. The six historic blocks have seen many changes; from once having street cars to its fluctuating business trends.

One of the most recent trends has the city concerned. City officials say they promote all business on State Street but would like to close the gap between the 65 percent of visitors dining and the 48 percent shopping.

In effort to get a current assessment of retail in Madison, city officials hired two consulting firms to do some digging. After critical market analysis, individual interviews, and case studies, the report was released in November 2016. It revealed from 1989 to 2014, the number of retail stores dropped from 97 to 70, and the number of restaurants/bars increased from 26 to 62.

According to the Better Improvement District, the number of service businesses along State Street has increased too. Their statistics show service makes up 35 percent of the 374 businesses. Retail comes in at 24 percent and food/drink at 39 percent of the businesses along State Street.

Another big reveal from the report was the cost to rent commercial property on State Street. According to the report, State Street property is $10/sq higher than the nation's average. The report says the average cost of rent on State Street is $45/sq, but city officials say the most expensive property along the stretch is $60/sq.

Current owners of The Soap Opera, Stacey and Sean Scannell bought their business last year. They say the rent is expensive but the amount of pedestrian traffic they get makes it worth it.

"It's like a melting pot," Stacey says," we get people in from all over the globe."

As restaurants have surged ahead of the number of retail spaces along State Street, City of Madison employee Ruth Rohlich says industry trends can be credited.

"Right now, there is a large trend for people spending their discretionary money on experiential dinning," Rohlich, a business development specialist said.

The Scannell's have recognized that trend. They applied for a liquor license so they can start having private soap and perfume events at their store.

"I don't think you're going to see less stores," Sean says," I think you're going to see more creative stores, which just brings more to the culture and experience down here."

(Copyright 2017: WMTV)