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IDA Research

IDA maintains a wide array of resources on best practices, trends, and research to ensure our members are always at the forefront of the place management industry, transforming cities into healthy and thriving places. Please visit our publications page to gain access to IDA reports.

Top Issues Councils

Since 2016, a selection of the most pressing issues facing downtown urban centers has been addressed by IDA's Top Issues Councils. These Councils bring together industry leaders to produce research briefs on the top urban issues identified by IDA members in the areas of economy, experience and partnership. This strategic initiative promotes the expertise of the profession and provides meaningful tools and information to IDA members.

The IDA Research Committee created the board-approved research agenda and established the top issues facing urban districts. Each council continued this work led by a chair with expertise in the issue area, who worked with four or five IDA members over the course of six months to produce a research product on one of the industry’s top issues.

2017 Top Issues Councils

Reports are now available for purchase, either separately or in a bundle. Please visit our webstore.

The council research products can take the form of a white paper, toolkit, case study, infographic, etc. based on the direction of the council. The leader works with the group to define the scope of the issue as it applies to the work of our members in the downtown and urban district management industry; to set internal working deadlines; and to serve as the liaison to IDA. All work is supported by IDA staff and the IDA Research Committee. For the second year, over 50 IDA members have served on six Top Issues Councils, each exploring a key topic within our industry and authoring a guidebook for sharing trends, case studies, and recommendations: Members, when you purchase the 2017 PDF bundle, you will receive the 2016 report bundle for free!

2018 Top Issues Councils

The 2018 councils will explore the following six topics:

  • Economic Development Tools & Incentive: What are the creative financing strategies, economic development tools and incentives that district advocates and place management organizations can employ to improve the economic health of a place?
  • Inclusive Places: What is the role of a place management organization in steering a city in favor of inclusiveness?
  • Nighttime Economy: What are the best practices and strategies around managing the nighttime economy at the district level?
  • Parking Management: What role can place management organizations play in parking management and providing parking solutions at the district level?
  • Place Branding: What are the best practices and strategies that place management organizations can utilize to brand, attract, and market a place?
  • Urban Transit: What role can place management organizations play in implementing, managing, advocating for, or filling in, the urban transit gaps as it relates to bus rapid transit, bus, light rail, transit oriented development, and metro systems?

2016 Top Issues Councils

In 2016, more than 47 IDA members and industry experts collaborated for six months to produce professional reports with meaningful tools for IDA members to use in their daily work. The 2016 topics are:

Join a Council

Serving on an IDA Top Issues Council provides an opportunity for an engaged leadership role within IDA; to have your work recognized and published; to share expert knowledge; to connect with fellow practitioners; to expand your network; to learn more in depth about a topic relevant to your work; and to contribute to the growing, relevant body of knowledge on the place management industry. Contact Ms. Cole E. Judge, Director of Research at to learn more about the Councils.

Top Urban Issues

The top urban issues facing urban districts in the next three to five years fall under economy, experience and partnership. Issues surrounding the downtown economy ranked as the top priority overall, followed by the downtown experience, and then partnerships. Partnerships ranked third in North American priorities for downtown professionals, yet tops the list in other nations.

Top Urban Priorities

IDA research revealed some specific priorities based on city size:

  • When it comes to smaller-size cities, retaining local property owners and increasing the diversity of their retail mix is at the top of the agenda.
  • In mid-size cities, we are understanding, housing affordability is really pressuring that segment the most.
  • In larger cities, where there might be a multitude of management organizations, collectively, they are focused on activating public space, continued enhancement of pedestrian improvements and increasing access to urban parks.

Topics like environmental impacts and social equity will remain relevant and important issues -- but if you look at the core issues on which downtown organizations feel they can have a significant impact, it still comes down to a healthy economic return for downtown districts, robust experiences, and contributing to be a leader in partnership roles between the local government and the private sector.

Ongoing IDA Data Collection

The following surveys are part of a larger initiative that illustrates the value of thorough industry data and how important it is for IDA to continue developing organizational profiles for our industry. The IDA research committee and IDA research staff will continuously be compiling additional industry intelligence and place management organizational performance data.

Public Safety Benchmarking: In 2015, IDA partnered with KPMG to understand leading practices on safety in places across the country. Eight place management districts provided valuable input, which are summarized in this document. The results show place management organizations participating in or even serving as the convener of partnerships with city or local police, local municipalities, social service organizations, or homelessness outreach professionals to enhance the security of a place. This is an initial step for benchmarking public safety practices within urban districts.

Residential Assessments: Faced with a mounting challenge to amend state legislation, an IDA member in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, sought to understand current practices in residential assessments and reached out to IDA for assistance. We surveyed our members, who responded dramatically with helpful information: residential properties contribute assessments in a slight majority of districts (51%). Read our latest Research Update for more on assessment of residential properties, both revenue and non-revenue producing. The survey on residential assessments remains open; if you have not yet responded, please take the survey.

Homelessness in Urban Districts: Initially created through a partnership with SUNY Albany to inform an academic journal article on the role of homelessness within urban districts, IDA is keeping this survey open to continue to collect information and best practices on this topic. This survey is geared toward urban district management organizations (i.e. Partnerships, BIDs, BIAs, etc.). Please choose one representative from your organization to complete the survey. Your feedback is greatly appreciated as we benchmark the role of improvement districts on the issue of homelessness. We would like to understand your experience with homelessness populations; to learn from your successes and struggles; and to share best practices. Your input, regardless of the degree of homelessness experienced in your district, will be valuable towards these efforts. Take the survey now.

Questions? Contact Ms. Cole E. Judge, Director of Research at