Knowledge Center

The Value of U.S. Downtowns and Center Cities

Cities and Regions Can Generate Profound Lasting Benefits through Investment in Downtowns and Center Cities

While small in physical size, downtowns are immensely valuable, diverse, efficient, inclusive and resilient on multiple levels. From driving tax revenue and business activity to hosting a concentration of resources, amenities, and social infrastructure, downtowns play a pivotal role in the long-term health of a region. The Value of U.S. Downtowns and Center Cities research articulates the inherent value a downtown provides to the greater city, highlighting a district’s contributions based upon 100+ key data points in the principles of Economy, Inclusion, Vibrancy, Identity and Resilience. Our 2020 data showed that study downtowns outpaced their cities in residential growth between 2000 and 2018, growing an average of 40% against the citywide average of 15%. Read more about IDA’s findings here.

The methodology and data standard used in The Value of U.S. Downtowns and Center Cities study serve as a tool IDA offers to members. As of 2021, IDA has developed two distinct versions of the study to provide key analysis to any size organization across the United States. Future studies will expand the reach of the study to other countries.  

The Power Your Downtown Plays in Your City

The Value of U.S. Downtowns and Center Cities report articulates the mutual benefits of downtown investment to a broad range of relevant stakeholders and shows the impact a downtown has on its city and region. With four years of data, IDA groups each of the center cities into one of three downtown tiers: Emerging Downtowns, Growing Downtowns and Established Downtowns. These tiers are defined by stage of development of the district both in terms of density and its significance to its city, as well as the growth of the district. The resulting report is a complete, data-driven narrative of the impact of your downtown on the city and region designed to empower local leaders to work with the public and private sectors on multiple levels and support the continued evolution of downtown. 

Comparing Your District’s Performance

Following on the success of The Value of U.S. Downtowns and Center Cities, IDA is launching a new research offering to objectively benchmark the value of your downtown. Building upon our database of hundreds of metrics across nearly 40 downtowns and center cities, The Value of Downtowns: Comparisons gives your district IDA’s unique perspective on the value and characteristics of downtowns and urban districts. It will use IDA’s five principles to categorize your downtown’s performance, identify your tier and study how your downtown stacks up to peers nationwide. 

How to Participate

Put your downtown on the map and contribute to the place management industry. IDA’s research supports the development of your downtown or district and is a vital step towards helping your organization prioritize its efforts. Whereas The Value of U.S. Downtowns and Center Cities report is particularly well-suited to organizations who are just starting their research journey and looking for a downtown-focused data framework, The Value of Downtowns: Comparisons is best for organizations who already collect a significant amount of data (such as for “State of Downtown” reports), and are interested in more detailed analysis of benchmark data across different downtowns in the U.S.

Support the place management industry by: 

  • Implementation of IDA-approved data standard and universal key metrics. 
  • Building out an IDA database that allows aggregate reporting out, individual analysis and comparisons between downtowns. 

The window for participating in the 2021 study has closed. To learn more, please email Cathy Lin, AICP, Director of Research, or call at (202) 798-5924.

IDA will work with a participating organization over a six-month timeframe tcollect and analyze a comprehensive set of data (~hundreds of metrics) and produce a report identifying the value of your downtown/district and how it contributes to your city and region.  

Participating downtowns will receive: 

  • Objective report on the value of downtown and impact it has on the city and region through the lenses of Economy, Inclusion, Vibrancy, Identity and ResilienceSee examples of past individual district reports from Fort Lauderdale and Cleveland.
  • Analysis providing a baseline for future data collection and comparison based upon the industry standard data and methodology.  
  • Inclusion in the IDA Vitality IndexJoin the interactive, online tool to quickly assess downtown performance on 15 key metrics. 

To learn more about the process and financial commitment, please email Cathy Lin, AICP, Director of Research, or call at (202) 798-5924. 

IDA will work with a participating organization over a three-month timeframe to collect select set of data (~50 metrics), and develop a short report and other potential visualizations to highlight where your downtown/district stands compared to its peers in the principles of Economy, Inclusion, Vibrancy, Identity and Resilience.  

Participating downtowns will receive: 

  • Individual analysis using select metrics to compare the performance of your downtown or district to the national database 
  • A baseline for future data collection: Analysis that provides a foundation for further collection and comparison based upon the industry standard data and methodology.
  • Inclusion in the IDA Vitality IndexJoin the interactive, online tool to quickly assess downtown performance on 15 key metrics.

To learn more about the process and financial commitment, please email Cathy Lin, AICP, Director of Research, or call at (202) 798-5924.