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.

Each council is led by a chair with expertise in the issue area, and works 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. 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.

To view a comprehensive list of IDA Research publications including the 2017 reports now on sale, click here. Members, when you purchase the 2017 PDF bundle, you will receive the 2016 report bundle for free!

Top Urban Issues

The top 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.

Research Value of U.S. Downtowns and Center Cities principles

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 a¬nd 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.

    2018 Top Issues Councils

    The 2018 councils, released in the fall of 2018, 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 Mobility: 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?

    2017 Top Issues Councils

    For the second year, over 50 IDA members have served on six councils, each exploring a key topic within our industry and authoring a guidebook for sharing trends, case studies, and recommendations:

    Reports are on sale, either separately or in a bundle. Please visit our webstore to purchase. Members, when you purchase the 2017 PDF bundle, you receive the 2016 report bundle for free!

    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 Cathy Lin, Director of Research at to learn more about the Councils.