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For decades, urban place management professionals have acted as leaders of their communities by undertaking the strategic and visionary work of city building. IDA has developed seven official knowledge domains, recognizing the distinct areas of professional practice used to shape vibrant urban districts which anchor the well-being of towns, cities, and regions around the world.

These core domains should 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. Content for IDA’s Annual Conference and spring Summits is organized around this framework. Most recently the Professional Development Committee agreed upon a standard level of competency to become certified in urban place management. More information on the Leadership in Place Management Certification can be found here.

Leadership is the ability to positively influence those over whom we have no authority. Successful urban place management begins with successful leadership that inspires trust, inclusivity and vision. The place manager inspires a culture of leadership and vision that permeates the organization. In addition, they assume a leadership role in creating a long-term strategic plan for a managed place while building an internal team focused on implementing and promoting the mission, values and objectives of that plan. The urban place manager must build meaningful relationships with various stakeholders including, but not limited to, board members, property owners, nonprofit partners, government officials, residents and business owners. Place managers are proactive, industrious and creative community leaders.

Place management harnesses and captures the value and growth potential that unique places have. It is the role of the place manager to uphold the strategic plan, implementing a sustainable revenue stream, working within the confines of local and state legislation, establishing and maintaining various taxing and levy structures, and managing a diverse and inclusive staff. Place managers focus on consensus building and negotiating to effectively manage relationships and solve complex place-based problems.

A primary objective for place managers is fostering a healthy, sustainable, diverse and prosperous economy for the managed place. The place manager collaborates and works closely with various levels of local and regional economic development organizations, developers, real estate brokers, private firms, philanthropic foundations, destination management organizations, non-profits, and state and federal government agencies, while representing the specific and unique needs, challenges and trends of the managed place.

Additionally, the place manager will work to recruit and retain businesses, conduct market research, encourage a strong local workforce, maintain a diverse mix of commercial and residential development, and facilitate a built environment that is accessible for all users to live, work, play, visit and invest.

The urban place manager advocates for resources and policy in support of the successful management of equitable and inclusive urban places. Ensuring the success of a managed place requires identifying and implementing the appropriate policies representing the values, mission, and objectives of a place’s strategic plan. While seeking to maximize a user’s experience within a place, the urban place manager acts as a convener and facilitator for various stakeholders including, the private sector, local and regional government, community organizations, and everyone who interacts with the place. The place manager is tasked with the ability to win the trust and confidence of a diverse group of stakeholders, understand the issues confronting the urban district from a multitude of perspectives, and manage complex partnerships to focus on the district’s issues, projects and initiatives.

Operations of a place requires the daily management of the physical space, whether publicly or privately owned, that encompasses cleaning, beautification, wayfinding, infrastructure maintenance, outreach, green space, and parking. Place managers address both the actual and perceived safety and security issues of a place by providing services, outreach and facilities. Place managers foster relationships with local and regional providers to share resources and information with the goal of cultivating safe and vibrant communities. Clean and safe teams have evolved within some districts to include engagement and intervention for those in need within our urban places.

The urban place manager emphasizes efforts on the built environment because of the significant impacts they have on the quality of life and one’s authentic experience of a place. Every place is different; therefore, place management strategies should respond to a myriad of place-based identifiers including, the place’s specific scale, status, culture, climate, community vision, goals, and mission, keeping at the forefront considerations of sustainability and resilience.

Through numerous approaches, such as land and real estate development, zoning and land-use, streetscape improvements, transit-oriented development, multi-modal connections, sustainable infrastructure, attainable housing initiatives and historic preservation among others, place managers enhance the quality of life for all stakeholders of a place.

Place managers narrate and communicate the identity and outward facing mission of the place to residents, tourists, businesses, and other stakeholder groups, thereby communicating the place’s unique brand. By expressing the identity of the place, the brand should invoke a sense of place, leaving individuals with the intangible feelings that one gets when engaging with the authenticity of the place.

The brand is used to market the place to these various stakeholder groups, attracting and inviting them to live, work, play and invest in the place. A diversity of tactics are used to market a place ranging from events, messaging, online engagement, street-level activation and more.


IDA’s biennial Staffing & Salary Survey is the most comprehensive benchmark on staffing and compensation trends in the U.S. and Canadian urban place management industry. The 2023 edition updates the dashboard platform first presented in 2021 with customizable results and organizational KPIs. The dashboard includes data on top executive compensation, staff salaries for 25 common positions, organizational budget and other demographic characteristics. Dynamic filters allow you to compare your district to peers in your region and across North America, and customize downloadable Excel and PowerPoint summaries of all the data. Also included will be a static PDF executive summary of the findings.

The dashboard includes the following categories:  

  • Organization Overview: geographic distribution, operating budget size and cost allocations, district types, and more
  • Executive Office & Admin Positions: total compensation and demographic details for CEO/Executive Director, staffing counts and compensation details across administrative positions
  • Top Program Leads Positions: staffing counts and compensation details across director/VP-level positions (e.g. Director of Marketing)
  • Program Staff Positions: staffing counts and compensation details across staff positions 
  • Operations Staff Positions: staffing counts and compensation details across staff positions (e.g. ambassadors, operations supervisors)
  • Benefits and Insurance: details on employee benefits provided, remote work policies, and paid time off 
  • Key Performance Indicators: calculations on budget per FTE, percentage of workforce cost, and more

The 2023 Staffing & Salary Survey dashboard format offers much more detailed compensation across diverse industry positions and filtering precision to search for comparable organizations by location, budget and staff size. Use the report to advance your professional goals and set organizational strategy.  

Purchase premium access from the IDA webstore. Please note, this publication is available for purchase by individuals only (not organizations) in order for you to receive your personalized dashboard login.  

This report explores the leadership skills required to run a dynamic, successful place management organization. The study is the result of 90-minute interviews with 50 current and former leaders within the downtown and urban district management industry from the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean and South Africa. This comprehensive, online, self-assessment instrument measures cognitive styles and patterns of motivation for these leaders. The summary findings from the study are now available at no charge to IDA members to serve as a critical guide for career development, hiring processes and maintaining a competitive advantage.

The findings of this leadership study echo the findings of IDA’s Staffing and Salary Survey, which reports that urban district CEOs hold various professional interdisciplinary certifications, ranging from nonprofit management, leadership, real estate, development, urban planning, architecture, public administration, and business.

  • Urban District CEOs are creative and action-oriented. This study pinpoints urban district CEOs as diverse, adaptive, skilled, proactive, multi-faceted and savvy leaders in their communities. This is fitting, as IDA leaders are the downtown champions and professional placemakers that connect the many stakeholders, bridging the gap between the public and private sectors. Downtown and urban district CEOs generally fall within the center line on most indicators, indicating an ability to balance between extremes despite everyday challenges with balanced and flexible leadership. IDA leaders are able to balance tradition with risk taking, qualitative and analytical thinking, allowing for a steady grasp of the larger picture.
  • Urban District CEOs are adaptive “jacks of all trades.” When compared with CEOs from other industries, IDA leaders emerge as “jacks of all trades,” balancing between the two extremes in behavioral competencies. Urban district CEOs score very similarly to CEOs with the International Economic Development Council (IEDC), though urban district leaders are more able to focus on implementation over theory. IDA leaders show a stronger commitment to long-term planning and balancing the big picture with the practicality of “getting things done.” When compared to CEOs in the overall for-profit industry, IDA leaders are much more empathetic and collaborative in their approaches to implementation, while demonstrating considerable endurance.

Visit our publications to download the report. This valuable report is available at no charge to IDA members and $75 for non-members.

Receive a personalized leadership assessment. Downtown and urban center leaders need to continually refine their skills to enhance their district’s assets and maintain a competitive advantage. IDA members are eligible for a special discounted rate from HRS, Inc. to receive a personalized leadership evaluation in comparison with peer leaders in the industry. Contact Cathy Lin, Director of Research, for more information.