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Here’s what we learned while reading Downtown Madison Inc.'s annual report

Since 2011, Downtown Madison Inc. has released an annual report detailing “timely, objective, and accurate data about downtown Madison.” Take a look at the 2023 report with us to see how the city is evolving as of late.

farmers market booth

From farm to tote — fill up on local goodies at the market. | Photo by DCFM

Downtown Madison, Inc. has released its 13th annual State of Downtown Madison report. We checked it out and rounded up a few big takeaways for our readers.

Note: Refer to this map to determine the boundaries of central downtown, greater downtown, and the Business Improvement District (BID).

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Downtown Madison Inc.'s boundaries map. | Map via Downtown Madison Inc.


In the past decade, the number of most types of housing units downtown have not fluctuated much. Apartments are an exception to this, with a 50% increase in units since 2011.

2011: 1,181
2023: 1,240

2011: 251
2023: 148

Single-family properties
2011: 170
2023: 148

2011: 7,423

Shop and eat

After a slow few years, due to COVID-19, Madison’s BID is inching closer to pre-pandemic business space vacancy rate levels.

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BID business space vacancy rates. | Graph via Downtown Madison Inc.

Additionally, 2023 has welcomed 25 food cart vending licenses along with 72 sidewalk cafe application submissions (as of September 2023).

If you want to positively contribute to next year’s food cart vending license stats, check out our application process guide which includes a short list of our readers’ favorite vendors.


This year, nearly 9.5 million people visited destinations in the greater downtown area, a nearly 25% increase from last year.


Visitor spending peaked downtown in 2019 with a total of $303.7 million. While that number plummeted in 2020 because of the pandemic, visitors are returning — wallets in hand — bringing us back up to $277.7 million in 2022.

To no one’s surprise, out-of-towners are spending the most money on food and beverages, lodging, and retail. What local spots would you encourage first-time visitors to spend their money at? Let us know.


Top five industries and percentage of employment downtown:

  1. Public administration: 37.9%
  2. Educational services: 15.3%
  3. Accommodation and food services: 10.7%
  4. Food services and drinking places: 7.3%
  5. Professional, scientific, and tech services: 6.6%

Note: Learn the difference between accommodation and food services vs. food services and drinking places.