News & Events

IDA Conference Recap

In early October, the International Downtown Association (IDA) hosted their 69th Annual Conference in
Chicago, Illinois. IDA is an association of downtown/place management organizations working to build
economically strong, equitable, inclusive, and vibrant places to live, work and visit throughout the world.
Their Annual Conference is a chance for member organizations to connect, share ideas, learn from
others, and formulate new ideas all while exploring successful projects all throughout Downtown
This year a record 1,500 people from throughout the world attended the conference. Several of us from
around Wisconsin joined in, learning best practices from cities small and large, connecting with other
downtown leaders to share new ideas and, and better understand how we can help improve our
downtowns for everyone.
In my 6 years in the downtown management industry, I have never missed a conference. It’s become a
must attend. Every year I learn, meet new people, and better understand how our organization can
create a stronger Downtown Madison. Several Downtown Madison, Inc. (DMI) initiatives got their start
from pervious conferences including public art projects, new strategic plans, governance models for new
projects, and additional programming and services for our members. Most importantly, I’ve made many
new friends, all of which are part of a network of downtown professionals who truly understand how to
lead downtowns into the future.
With downtowns and main streets changing so much over the last few years, I was eager to learn how
we can ensure Downtown Madison remains a vibrant, inclusive, and active place. Several sessions
discussed the future of downtown, trends throughout the industry and how downtowns are rebounding
more than three years after the global pandemic. Two sessions in particular left a lasting impression.
Downtown consultants P.U.M.A discussed their latest Global Trends Report highlighting opportunities
and challenges from converging shifts in demographics, lifestyles, and disruptive forces that are rapidly
shaping downtowns. Second, Paul Levy, President and CEO of Philadelphia’s Center City District, spoke
about their new report, Downtown Rebound, the Data Driven Path to Recovery. Both sessions discussed
the real challenges our downtowns are facing right now, while providing positive steps to help ensure
downtowns across the world continue to succeed.
I will take what I learned back to our team in Madison, build on connections made, and work to help
Downtown Madison thrive for years to come. Without a doubt, the IDA Annual Conference is an
important part of our organizations strategy to create the best Downtown Madison we can. Hopefully I
will see even more Wisconsinites at next year’s conference in Seattle, Washington so we can all work
together to build successful downtowns throughout our great state.

Written by WDAC Board Member Jason Ilstrup, President of Downtown Madison Inc.

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