News from the Top

Downtowns Are Changing. We Need to Advocate for Them.


As the pandemic grinds into its third year, it’s clear that there will be lasting changes for downtowns and city centers.  

While the office will remain important for work, in both the public and private sectors, even small shifts to hybrid work will limit office demand for the near future. As one observer put it in Barron’s, “The workplace of 2019 isn’t coming back.” 

This presents enormous challenges for city centers experiencing decreases in office occupancy. But it also presents opportunities for downtowns to diversify, with more housing, retail, and amenities that bring people to the heart of the city. The great strengths of downtowns have been their ability to adapt and adjusts to market and behavior changes.  

These inherent strengths and trends are why IDA is working with lawmakers in Washington to support city centers via the Revitalizing Downtowns Act, legislation that offers tax incentives for converting unused office space to other uses that keeps downtowns vibrant 24/7. Many IDA members already have contacted their elected representatives to support the bill. (You can get involved, too, and ask your reps to support the bill.) 

IDA’s advocacy for this bill highlights two key points for place management organizations: First, transforming downtowns requires a collaborative effort that includes elected officials at all levels. 

More importantly, we cannot sit on the sidelines as policymakers write laws and regulations that impact the places we love, which are critical for economic opportunity, community, and culture. Take the recently enacted infrastructure law: the bill includes nearly a trillion dollars to rebuild and repair highways, bridges, waterways, and more – all-important, but relatively little that directly benefits the infrastructure of downtowns.  

When policymakers deliberate over issues like housing, transportation, and economic development, downtowns should be at the table. IDA is launching an initiative to build advocacy capacity to engage U.S. lawmakers to listen to and respond to our views.  

There will be more on that in the coming weeks, but one thing is for sure: just as downtowns are changing, so must our approach to advocating for them. 

For more information about IDA’s U.S. Government Affairs, please click here