Downtown Achievement Awards

Urban place management professionals around the world have stepped up during times of uncertainty to creatively respond and help their communities. We have become more innovative and view challenges in placemaking, economic development, and urban planning as opportunities for problem-solving. Showcase your resiliency and share your best practices with the world. Be recognized for your exceptional work in an equally exceptional year. Enter the IDA Downtown Achievement Awards by Friday, March 12, 2021.

If you have questions, please contact Rebecca Bishophall, Membership Services Manager, at

Winners are highlighted on, recognized during the Annual Conference & Marketplace and showcased in IDA’s newsletter. Need some inspiration? View last year’s Innovative Projects.

Submission Information and Instructions
The 2021 Downtown Achievement Awards application process is open. The deadline to submit is March 12, 2021. Winners will be announced in October 2021.

Submitters must include:

  • Contact person and contact information
  • Name of organization submitting
  • Name of project
  • Category of submission
  • Project budget
  • Annual organizational budget
  • City, State/Province, Country
  • City Population
  • A description of your project: (300 Words)
  • Submitters who are consultants and/or corporations must include a reference letter from the place management organization (BIA, BID, BIZ, etc.) they are representing.

The Downtown Achievement submission prices are $275 for members and $375 for nonmembers.

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To get started, please log in to Submittable or easily create a free account. You can stop, save and return to your work at any time before the deadline. When you’ve completed the form, please click ‘Submit’ at the bottom.

Please provide responses to the following criteria, listed in order of importance to the judges.

1. Innovation (250 words): Describe the project’s purpose. Explain desired outcome and the intended audience. Does the project or program offer an innovative or unique approach to a downtown management or development challenge? If the project has a “green” or environmental component, how does it facilitate a positive environmental change? 

2. Outcome (250 words): What was the impact of the effort/project? How was it measured? Did it directly benefit multiple groups (the public, retailers, developers, property owners, visitors, residents, or the downtown organization?) Did it solve any existing problems? Address the durability and life span of the project. How long did/will this project stay up or operate? Was it a one-time effort or can it grow, become self-funding, or self-sustaining?

3. Execution (200 words): Show the steps leading up to the outcome of the project. Was the project done well, within a reasonable time frame, and with a high quality of work?

4. Representation (200 words): List the ways your project or program was inclusive. How many partners were involved? At which levels of urban place management were they involved? List the ways your project was equitable? Was the community or general public involved in the effort? List the ways the involvement included a diverse background of people. How was the local downtown organization involved?

5. Replication (200 words): Explain how the entry presents a solution others could modify for their own circumstances. How is it replicable in the same downtown or district on multiple dates or in multiple places

6. Complexity/Simplicity (200 words): Some projects are complex while others lend themselves to simple, but elegant solutions. Discuss the challenges involved in getting the project done. What strategies did you employ to mitigate the complexity, or what made a simple solution the best solution?

Optional: Entries may include up to 3 digital uploads that include photographs and/or audio and/or video. One of the uploads may be a PowerPoint with up to 12 slides and a maximum size of 15MB. That presentation should be heavy on visuals and light on text.

Note: IDA has permission to publish any portion of this submission (written materials, photographs, etc.) in a comprehensive awards document and/or future IDA materials, regardless of award or recognition level.

Need some inspiration? View last year’s Innovative Projects.

Award Opportunities

  • Pinnacle Award: The Pinnacle Award represents the most creative and inspiring innovations in the industry. The submission far surpasses the jury criteria.
  • Award of Excellence: The Award of Excellence exceeds the jury criteria and denotes an excellent response to an industry challenge.

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Award categories are now aligned with IDA’s professional development domains. These seven core domains act as a framework for urban place managers to utilize in furthering their professional careers and to aid in their work enhancing vibrant urban places. Below are descriptions of what an entry should highlight in the chosen category. Once you are logged in to Submittable, select the appropriate category and click the corresponding orange “Submit” button for that project.  If you have any questions, please contact Rebecca Bishophall, Membership Services Manager. 

Economic Development
Business Recruitment; Business Retention, Market Analysis/Market Research; Real Estate Financing; Historic Preservation Financing; Real Estate Development & Redevelopment; Attainable Housing- Workforce and Affordable; Residential development; Nighttime Economy; Tourism; Innovative Financing Methods; Working with entrepreneurs through Incubators, Co-working spaces and foodhalls; Retail recruitment including restaurants, national chains, local independents and pop-ups.

Planning, Design and Infrastructure
Downtown visioning; downtown master planning; real estate development, zoning, land-use and permitting; streetscape improvements; transit-oriented development; multi-modal transportation; accessibility; sustainable infrastructure; open space planning; bicycle infrastructure; parking operations/management; way-finding; attainable housing initiatives and historic preservation.

Public Space Management & Operations
Clean, safe and hospitality; placemaking; activation; parks and open space; homelessness, panhandling and social services; opioid epidemic; beautification and landscape; public safety; public art; sidewalk activations; facilities management; street banners and holiday décor; parklets; technology trends for managing, responding, tracking and reporting.

Policy and Advocacy
Government Relations; Research; Stakeholder/Community Engagement; Equity and Inclusion; Social Issues; Legislation.

Marketing, Communications and Events
Branding; Public Relations; Public Engagement; Communications; Marketing strategies; Data and Metrics; Messaging and Reporting; Sponsorship and Fundraising strategies; Technology Trends; Crisis Communications plans.

Organizational Management
Governance; District Assessment models, District Formation and enabling legislation; Operational Systems; Board Management; Managing your team; Non-Profit Finance.

Leadership Development
Leadership Skills; Visioning; Board Leadership including roles / responsibilities / expectations; Strategic planning with your team and board; External Relationship Building.

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