What is downtown management?

Since 1970, property and business owners in cities throughout North America realized that the secret to revitalizing and sustaining vibrant downtowns, central business districts, and neighborhood commercial centers required special attention beyond the services city administrations could provide alone.

These private-sector owners came together to form not-for-profit management associations to deliver key services within the boundaries of their districts. With voluntary funding from the property and business owners, the management organization provides increased security and maintenance, hosts community gathering events, markets the group of businesses to consumers, recruits new business to fill vacant retail space, and orchestrates a host of other activities often thought of as being provided by the city.These organizations are often called Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), Business Improvement Areas (BIAs), and Partnerships.

These organizations are our members -- the International Downtown Association is the premier organization for urban place professionals who are shaping dynamic city center districts. Our members are downtown champions who bring urban centers to life.

How are place management organizations funded?

Downtown management organizations are nonprofits funded by a special assessment on the private properties within their district. For example, many highly visible public spaces, like Times Square or Denver’s 16th Street Mall, are managed by our members. Our member organizations are responsible for marketing the district, hosting events to attract customers for retailers, organizing events like Restaurant Week, and even helping to fill vacant storefronts.

The last 50 years of public-private partnerships managing and improving public space has proved successful. More recently we are seeing an increasing number of new Business Improvement Districts formed. While North America has employed property-based assessments for more than 45 years, countries across the globe are increasingly employing this technique to regenerate the urban experience.

Downtown confidence is growing, and the urban place management industry is strong. IDA's urban district benchmarking survey conducted in San Francisco reveals 78% of our organizations report the economic health of their urban place has increased. Combined with 75% of our organizations reporting increased residential development in their urban place, we can expect 2016 to be another growth year.

What is the size of the industry?

The industry consists of more than 2,500 place management organizations, employing 100,000 people throughout North America with an additional 500 organizations located across the globe. These organizations come in all sizes, with median annual budgets of $1.2 million.

We are raising awareness of this industry, which often goes unnoticed by the general public but employs 100,000 people with $3 billion in wages. The top 20 cities in the U.S. and Canada benefit from a combined investment of $500 million dollars in public space improvements financed by private sector assessments alone. The top 15 cities in the U.S. receive direct private investment of $400 million a year through BID assessments alone. The top five cities in Canada receive direct private investment of $73 million a year through BIAs (Business Improvement Areas).

The rise of cities

According to the World Health Organization, in 1960, 34 percent of the world’s population lived in urban areas. In 2014, that number was 54 percent and is projected to be 66 percent by 2050. The global urban growth rate is expected to grow by 1.84 percent annually. And in the United States, people are flocking to city centers.

According to the U.S. Census, the total metro population living within four miles of city hall is more than 54 million – almost 21 percent of America's metro population. That's 17.5 percent of the national population living within a quick car ride, 30-minute bike ride or hour-long walk of the center of a big city. Our members manage these districts to help create vital, healthy, thriving cities.