IDA and our partner, the California Downtown Association, successfully held our first in-person West Coast Urban District Forum since 2019. We want to send a special thank you to the Downtown Reno Partnership, its entire team and Executive Director, Alex Stettinski, for stepping in to serve as host this year. The overarching key takeaways from our three days together were clear:
1. It’s been far too long since many of the attendees connected in person.
2. Many new professionals have entered the industry these last 18 months, and many existing members have taken on new positions.
3. IDA events remain the number one opportunity for finding expertise and knowledgeable professionals who continue to share best practices and innovate solutions to the latest challenges.
Attendees at the conference were quick to delve into deep discussions about attracting people back to commercial districts through activations, placemaking and return to downtown campaigns. They explored issues of public safety, social economy, homelessness, housing and many other topics. In true fashion, the shared experiences and firsthand knowledge shared between attendees and speakers were immeasurable.
It was great to see many new faces and reconnect with colleagues, some now holding new positions. The multiple declarations by first-time attendees struck me of how valuable it was to attend the conference: “This has been the best opportunity ever. I’m so glad I decided to attend.”
This event is now the second time I’ve seen a significant number of new people among our ranks. We have a clear mandate to consider how best to support and mentor new people, whether through our webinars, the Emerging Leader Fellowship program, or the new Executive Leadership Retreat, and of course, the upcoming Annual Conference & Marketplace. If you are attending the conference in Vancouver, look for unfamiliar faces and introduce yourself! Remember your first IDA event and how few people you knew. Let’s work together to make the IDA tent even bigger.
Perhaps the most impressive finding at this year’s WCUDF was learning how the Reno community has come together with a complete and holistic commitment to address their homeless challenge. Reno is a Built For Zero Community with a goal of reaching functional zero people experiencing homelessness. We learned specifically of the Nevada Cares Campus, which provides emergency shelter for 600 individuals experiencing homelessness; the Hope Springs bridge housing community; and the Village on Sage Street, providing housing assistance to 216 individuals. All the facilities are in immediate proximity to one another and within a mile of downtown with bus routes along a single corridor. The collaboration between public, private and the social sector was extraordinary. Never had I seen a community so uniquely “on the same page” and dedicated to ending homelessness in their community. This was evident when the Washoe county representatives reported that one third of the County’s $70+ million ARPA funds is being directed to this initiative. The current projects and future plans are worth investigating for your community.
All in all, it was an amazing West Coast Urban District Forum. Up next is the 68th Annual Conference & Marketplace – I hope to see you in Vancouver this September. Don’t miss the early registration deadline, which is just around the corner on Wednesday, June 29, 2022.