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International Downtown Association Report: The Value of U.S. Downtowns and Center Cities

June 18, 2018

Current View

This groundbreaking study by the IDA, Stantec, and HR&A Advisors highlights a downtown’s unique and impactful contributions to a city's economy, inclusiveness, vibrancy, identity, and resilience

The International Downtown Association's (IDA) Value of U.S. Downtowns and Center Cities project focuses on demonstrating the impact and benefits American downtowns and center cities provide all citizens in the community. Informed by IDA’s award-winning project, The Value of Investing in Canadian Downtowns, this new study:

  • Establishes a replicable, accessible, standard methodology for IDA to calculate the value of an American downtown.
  • Articulates the unique contributions, importance, and multiple benefits of downtown investment for a broad range of relevant stakeholders and audiences.
  • Benchmarks the performance of American downtowns and creates a baseline for future data collection.

The study identified five key principles—economy, inclusion, vibrancy, identity, and resilience—and analyzed more than 100 key data points within the principles to quantify the value of a given U.S. downtown. The study relied on both public and proprietary data sources, defining the commercial downtown beyond the boundaries of a downtown development authority or business improvement district. Metrics were calculated by change over time, by square mile, and by share of city value, allowing IDA to begin measuring each downtown against its respective city and region.

Thirteen broadly representative downtown urban place-management organizations across the U.S. participated in testing this new industry standard, including Baltimore, Charlotte, Grand Rapids, Lancaster, Miami, Norfolk, Pittsburgh, Sacramento, San Antonio, San Francisco, Santa Monica, Seattle, and Wichita. Our analysis of this pilot group of downtowns opened a window on just how much impact downtowns truly have, not only on those who live and work downtown, but also on their respective cities and regions.

The findings reveal that each downtown functions as a leading economic driver in each city and region. While small in physical size, downtowns are immensely valuable, diverse, efficient, inclusive, and resilient on multiple levels.

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