IDA members are diligently advocating to government and the private sector in favor of easing restrictions and creating return-to-work campaigns necessary to help begin the long recovery process. Yes, reopening in a healthy manner remains the top priority. However, just as management organizations led campaigns to change the perceptions of city centers as less desirable places decades ago, the time has come again to be the voice for revitalizing downtowns and urban neighborhoods following the pandemic.
The economic imperative has never been so clear with established downtowns providing an average 22% of a city’s assessed value according to the updated Value of Downtowns Executive summary. The economic engine of our cities, towns and regions is simply too great to risk. The questions on IDA members’ minds are growing: Will work from home expectations have a major impact on the downtown office market which on average constitutes 38% of all offices within a city? Will commuters prioritize personal automobiles for the foreseeable future? When will tourism-based economies rebound? Will online sales and delivery permanently shift demand away from physical stores? These are all good questions, and to varying degrees, the answer is most likely yes.
“For all its uncertainty, we cannot flee the future” – Barbara Jordon
IDA members have never run from a challenge and the past year further amplifies the will of urban place leaders to address the pandemic head-on. Recovery and rebuilding are the issues before us, and increasingly districts are planning for the future. Just today, we learned how the City of Montréal, in partnership with provincial and federal governments, has outlined a specific strategy for the downtown:
- Protect downtowns key assets that will be essential for the recovery.
- Generate maximum footfall downtown this summer.
- Get office workers back in the office (as soon as the situation permits.)
- Launch a recovery plan (2022.)
Many members are currently developing plans, while others are just beginning. Kathleen Rawson, IDA Board Chair and CEO in Downtown Santa Monica, wrote last week, “In this moment, I could not be more proud of our industry and the people in it. Let’s not forget to lean on one another as we get through this difficult moment.”
There are many ways to lean on the IDA community for help. Reach out through IDEA Connection, take advantage of updated resources available from IDA Research, visit the publications webpage and look for new recovery posts on the COVID-19 Resource page. Lastly, share your work with IDA so we can increase the resources available to all members. The IDA Research Team is nimbler than ever, offering many ways to engage with the team. Reach out to Cathy Lin, AICP, Director of Research by email or call at (202) 798-5924 to learn more.