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.

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

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

  • Downtown Partnership of Baltimore (Maryland)
  • Charlotte Center City Partners (North Carolina)
  • Downtown Grand Rapids (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 (California)
  • Downtown Seattle Association (Washington)
  • Wichita Downtown Development Corporation (Kansas)

  • The Value of U.S. Downtowns and Center Cities report will be released in January 2018 and available for 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 development of a new “Downtown 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.

    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.

    Stantec Logo


    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.

    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.