Policy & Advocacy

Building on Recovery

This resources page has been developed to summarize and equip the urban place management industry with the most current, up-to-date information and guidance for pandemic recovery in our downtowns, city centers and neighborhood districts. The importance of our role in supporting the post-pandemic future is significant, and we must continue to emphasize the value the place management profession brings to our communities.

IDA’s report, Building on Recovery for Urban Place Management, outlines actions that urban place management organizations (UPMOs) can take to ensure downtowns, city centers and urban districts recover more strongly. Explore top priorities for COVID recovery and strategies that UPMOs can undertake to build on recovery efforts. This publication is free for both members and nonmembers.

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IDA is updating best offerings regularly—bookmark and return to this page to remain informed and review the latest resources! Do you have a resource or example of your response to the pandemic to share with members? If so, email IDA’s Research Team.

Throughout the pandemic, UPMOs across the country emerged as trusted resources filtering through the noise, for not just members but all downtown stakeholders and visitorsCommunication remains as important as ever in the recovery stage.  

Disseminate Key Data Points About District Recovery 

These organizations frequently update metrics including pedestrian activity, office occupancy, public transit utilization and restaurant reservations to highlight economic recovery downtown.  

Regularize Engagement and Outreach to Small Businesses In Your District

UPMOs should work to build out communications infrastructure to better reach small businesses and disseminate trusted information and resources.

Strengthen Partnerships with the Public Sector and Ensure your UPMO Has a Seat at the Table
The urgency of the pandemic forced municipalities and states to take swift action on many processes that were previously challenging to implement. UPMOs built stronger relationships with city partners and should actively participate in discussion and development of legislation impacting their district.

Creative uses of outdoor spaces flourished during the pandemic and built a sense of vibrancy even when gatherings were heavily restricted. These programs proved extremely popular in most cities worldwide and have thrived year-round. UPMOs are best positioned to work with city counterparts to make these programs safe and enduring.

Permanently Implement Open Streets Programs

Cities with legislation for permanent programs

Cities with extended outdoor programs

Create Permanent Programs and Support for Outdoor Dining, Streeteries and Parklets

According to the IDA Urban District Consumer Survey (RRC Slides | Spring/Summer 2021 Results), 84% of respondents would like to keep the expanded outdoor restaurant seating in sidewalks, parking spaces and streets at least some of the time, and 57% want to make these changes permanent.

UPMOs need to recognize that coming downtown or visiting urban commercial districts, more than ever before, will be a choice. Some fraction of office workers will work remotely, but one of the main reasons that workers enjoy coming to the office is for the amenities nearby. UPMOs should strive to give workers and visitors compelling reasons to travel downtown. Getting “back to normal” will require a multi-pronged effort across all sectors.

Advocating and Facilitating a Return to Office

Office occupancy data

    • Kastle Back to Work Barometer (weekly updates on weekly office occupancy across 10 large U.S. metros).
    • Research by economist Nick Bloom estimates that ultimately, remote work will account for one-fifth of all workdays, compared with just 5% pre-pandemic.

Return to Office Initiatives

Promote Storefront Businesses

Bright Brothers advises in its Spring Recovery Trends that it’s best for businesses and place managers to focus on fresh, timely content that highlights the best assets of your district, rather than pushing “Open for Business” campaigns. Positive emphasis on benefits of downtown areas yields better results, rather than spreading the incorrect characterization that all central districts were fully closed during the pandemic.

Incentive Programs

    • Downtown Modesto launched the RAD Card, a digital gift card that matches (yes, doubles) the money loaded on it by leveraging federal and donor funds to stretch consumer dollars and stimulate local businesses – no strings or fees attached. The RAD card can come to your community too, email radcard@downtownmodesto about participation.
    • Downtown Tempe Association’s A Mountain Challenge
    • Downtown Greensboro’s Downtown Summer Passport

Dedicated websites to reacquaint local and regional visitors to district offerings


Establishing strong reasons for people to come downtown is crucial—not just for attracting visitors to our city centers, but for giving employees added motivation to interact at the office in a hybrid environment and ultimately restoring the vibrance and vitality of central urban neighborhoods.

The pandemic, coupled with the summer of focus on racial inequality in the U.S. in 2020, underscored the deep-seated racial and economic inequities that challenge our nation and the work of place management. As we recover from the pandemic, we must recover with special attention to diversity, equity and inclusion that empowers all to live, work, and play in our districts.

Develop Programs Supporting Minority Entrepreneurs

    • The Downtown Partnership of Baltimore’s BOOST (Black-Owned and Operated Storefront Tenancy)
    • The Golden Triangle BID in Washington D.C.’s Grow Golden program

The pandemic and racial equity concerns have shaken up urban place management organizations. Organizations can use this opportunity to revisit their strategic plans to incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion internally and expand districtwide programming to be more inclusionary. UPMOs with a diversity of staff are better able to ensure a diversity of programming in their districts.

The unprecedented funding for COVID recovery from the federal government in many nations offers new opportunities to invest in downtowns and urban districts. For organizations that already have a district master plan, this is an opportunity to accelerate the implementation of those shared visions. If no district master plan yet exists, this is the time to develop one.

Pedestrian, Multimodal and Green Infrastructure Investment

Downtown and District Recovery Roadmaps