Research Value of U.S. Downtowns and Center Cities

Great Cities and Regions Start Downtown

A strong downtown is critical for a successful city and region. Downtowns and center cities are where people, capital, and ideas coalesce due to size, proximity and density. This groundbreaking study articulates the inherent value a downtown provides to the greater city, highlighting a downtown’s unique and impactful contributions while accounting for 100+ key data points based on economy, inclusion, vibrancy, identity, and resilience. Read the Executive Summary here.

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

These 13 downtowns spent eight months shaping IDA’s new research offering to quantify the value of downtown.

  • Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, Inc. (Maryland)
  • Charlotte Center City Partners (North Carolina)
  • Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. (Michigan)
  • BLVD Association (Lancaster, California)
  • Miami Downtown Development Authority (Florida)
  • Downtown Norfolk Council (Virginia)
  • Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (Pennsylvania)
  • Downtown Sacramento Partnership (California)
  • Centro San Antonio (Texas)
  • Union Square BID (San Francisco, California)
  • Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (California)
  • Downtown Seattle Association (Washington)
  • Wichita Downtown Development Corporation (Kansas)

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

    The Value of U.S. Downtowns and Center Cities report was released on January 25, 2018, and is available as a free download from the IDA webstore. The new methodology and data standard will serve as a tool IDA continues to offer to members. The information from the 2017 and future downtown cohorts will inform the development of a new “IDA Vitality Index.” This novel tool will standardize the value of downtown as a place for a range of stakeholders; create a useful set of tools for replicable, data-driven measurement; and define a baseline for assessment of progress and peer comparison. Read the Press Release.


    Project Advisors

    Stantec’s Urban Places is an interdisciplinary hub bringing together leaders in planning and urban design, transportation including autonomous mobility, resilience, development, mixed-use architecture, smart cities, and brownfield redevelopment. They work in downtowns across North America—in cities and suburbs alike—to unlock the extraordinary urban promise of enhanced livability, equity, and resilience.

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    Project Taskforce

    A subset of the IDA Research Committee, The Value of U.S. Downtown and Center Cities taskforce is focused on advancing the planning, guidance, and implementation of this project, providing insights and ideas on research methodologies, project management, and more.

    Taskforce Members: Kristopher Larson, CEO, Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc.; Steven Welliver, Deputy Chief Executive, Downtown Santa Monica, Inc.; Claude Imbault, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Union Square Business Improvement District; and Nicholas Martinez, Urban Economics & Market Development, Senior Manager, Miami Downtown Development Authority.

    Consultants to the Project

    HR&A Advisors is an industry-leading public policy, real estate, and economic development consulting firm. For more than 40 years, we have provided strategic advisory and implementation services for some of the most complex public policy and development projects across North America and abroad. With offices in New York, Dallas, Los Angeles, Raleigh, and Washington, D.C., we have guided hundreds of clients in transforming real estate and economic development concepts, and public infrastructure, first into actionable plans then into job-producing, community-strengthening assets. HR&A’s consultants include former government officials, developers, economists, planners and lawyers. We work with diverse private clients to create value from government assets, and we help public officials maximize benefits from the expertise and capacity of the private sector. We approach assignments from diverse perspectives, enabling critical analyses that result in projects that meet our clients’ economic and policy objectives.

    Interested in being involved in the 2018 study? Contact Ms. Cole E. Judge, Director of Research at to learn more about The Value of U.S. Downtowns and Center Cities 2018 project.