What's Your BID?

Q&A with Mary Carbine, executive director of Madison's central improvement district


Formed in 1999, Madison’s Central Business Improvement District, or BID, is an assessment district encompassing the greater State Street and Capitol Square area, home to more than 350 shops, galleries, restaurants, salons, coffee shops, nightspots and other businesses (more than eighty percent locally owned) plus arts and cultural destinations. The BID works to keep the heart of downtown healthy, vital and welcoming to Madison’s residents and visitors alike.


BIDs are economic development tools that leverage private investment in specific business districts. The funds raised by assessments are used for enhancements within the designated district—over and above the services that a city would provide. More than 1,200 BIDs can be found in North America, in cities from New York to Boulder and Austin, and more than eighty throughout Wisconsin. Madison’s downtown BID remains the city’s first and only BID. Through the BID, downtown property and business owners fund programs to enhance business within the district, market downtown as a shopping, dining and entertainment destination and create a welcoming environment.


The BID partners with the Greater State Street Business Association on events that bring thousands downtown, such as the Cars on State Classic Car Show, Maxwell Street Days Summer Sidewalk Sale and the Downtown Madison Holiday Open House. In 2007, the BID and the city of Madison co-funded a Downtown Madison Market Analysis Study, as part of Downtown Madison Inc.’s “Downtown Dynamic” business retention, expansion and recruitment initiative. In 2008, the BID built on the study results with a business marketing piece to support business recruitment and development in the central Downtown. The BID also works closely with organizations such as UW–Madison and the Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau and acts as a liaison with the city to keep property and business owners informed about downtown construction, parking, safety and special events.


The BID Downtown Map and Guide lists hundreds of shops, restaurants, and things to see and do downtown. More than 200,000 are distributed annually for everything from family weddings to business events, relocation packets and conventions. The free map can be ordered by calling 443-1976 or at visitdowntownmadison.com. Visitors and residents alike are welcome to stop by a Downtown Information Booth on State Street or the Square. In 2008, BID Information Ambassadors helped 28,000 people with downtown directions, shopping and dining suggestions—with a friendly smile. For more information, visit visitdowntownmadison.com.

Maggie Ginsberg-Schutz is a contributing writer to Madison Magazine.

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