What happens downtown doesn’t stay downtown: The ripple effects of a strong center city
February 27, 2019
February 27, 2019
A new report uses data to document the outsized economic, social, and symbolic value downtowns create for their regions
My colleagues and I have recently settled into a new office that overlooks the activity of downtown Minneapolis 10 stories below. This means a lot to me. For more than a decade before joining Stantec at its then-suburban campus, I served as the City of Minneapolis’s downtown planner. Now, our move has brought me back to the part of the region I love most and connected me to a lifestyle I personally and professionally value. But the move had nothing to do with where I wanted to work and everything to do with the idea that to “design with community in mind,” we need to be in the heart of that community.
Stantec's Urban Places jumped at the chance to work with IDA on measuring the value of downtowns and center cities for their larger regions.
We’re not the only ones who see downtowns as central to their communities. The International Downtown Association (IDA) recently released The Value of U.S. Downtowns and Center Cities, a report that gives us an idea of what makes a truly successful downtown (download the report here). IDA’s members—generally business improvement districts or downtown partnerships—are grounded in more than 2,500 North American downtowns. This puts IDA in a perfect position to analyze what makes for a thriving downtown with intrinsic value to its region.
Stantec’s Urban Places jumped at the chance to work with IDA on measuring the value of downtowns and center cities for their larger regions. As part of the first update of the report, I helped evaluate best practices and metrics for a group of downtowns that are either already well-established, successfully growing, or beginning to gain momentum.
The IDA measured the performance of 24 downtowns across five key areas—economy, inclusion, vibrancy, identity, and resilience. One of the downtowns happens to be the one I know best—Minneapolis, which the report classifies as established. Here’s my quick take on the five principles as they play out there. I’ve started with Inclusion, since I believe efforts in the other four areas can’t succeed without it.
My philosophy on planning, especially in a downtown, is embedded in the concept of access—access to daily services, to diverse housing options at all income levels, to mobility choices that take you where you need to go, and to the amenities that make our lives brighter. If we plan for and deliver these things, all people can thrive.
The Value of U.S. Downtowns and Center Cities report serves as a valuable snapshot that helps us begin to understand the individual elements that collectively achieve a thriving downtown and region. No matter how a downtown is classified, it can build on the foundation laid by its peers while honing its own identity for success.