While delivering welcome remarks to the 2021 Emerging Leader Fellows over Zoom, I was reminded once again of just how long we’ve been unable to meet in person. The passion we all share for public space and building successful urban places is experiential! And yet, we’ve been unable to unite in person since October 30, 2019, in Baltimore, Maryland. So get ready, because that is going to change.
Registration opened this week for IDA’s first live event, our 67th Annual Conference & Marketplace in Tampa, Florida. Yes! The band is getting back together for what will clearly be a sold-out show. I have no doubt the performances by knowledge leaders imparting their innovative ideas will be exceptional, but what I’m looking forward to the most is reconnecting with each IDA member in person.
Vaccination programs are taking effect, our cities are reopening, and the opportunity to truly “feel” a sense of community is quickly returning. Our recent IDA member survey finds that 95% of member respondents are fully vaccinated or will be by the conference. While some protocols for large indoor events are still in place today, by October I’m optimistic we’ll be able to close the physical gaps and celebrate the amazing ways in which IDA members overcame the challenges of COVID-19.
The last 18 months have been tremendously difficult, and I expect the three years ahead to be enormously challenging as we rebuild our communities. We will all face shifts in how our districts will function. We are already seeing increased turnover as tenured CEOs and senior staff, who remained in place a bit longer to help sustain us through the pandemic, are now supporting the next generation of downtown leaders who will rebuild the city centers the prior generation revitalized. The strength and sharing nature of our professional community will have never been so important.
Let’s unite in Tampa to celebrate the return of our annual gathering and chart a course together for more resilient and inclusive community building.
Learn more about the 67th Annual Conference & Marketplace, taking place October 20-22, 2021 in Tampa, Florida.