A new report has been published by the International Downtown Association in Washington DC that seeks to identify the value of US Downtowns.

The Value of U.S. Downtowns and Center Cities project focuses on demonstrating the impact and benefits American downtowns and centre cities provide all citizens in the community.

The study identified five key principles— economy, inclusion, vibrancy, identity, and resilience—and analyzed more than 100 key data points within the principles to quantify the value of a given U.S. downtown

Thirteen broadly representative downtown urban place management organizations across the U.S. participated in testing this new industry standard.

The findings reveal that each downtown functions as a leading economic driver in each city and region. While small in physical size, downtowns are immensely valuable, diverse, efficient, inclusive, and resilient on multiple levels

Economy: Thanks to density of economic activity, downtown investment provides a higher level of return per dollar invested than other parts of the city

Given their relatively small size (on average, just three percent of all citywide land), downtowns in this study deliver anywhere from 13% to 64% of the citywide tax revenue, 11% of the assessed land value, 30% of the citywide employment housed in 40% of the cities office space. Downtowns represent economic opportunity and have a built environment that supports future growth.

Inclusion:  The pilot downtowns exhibited marked demographic diversity with significant share of their city’s foreign-born (13%), non-white (35%), middle-income (30%) and millennial populations (14%) compared to their small geographic size

Vibrancy: The pilot downtowns accounted for 38% of the citywide residential growth (2010-15), 44% of the hotels, and 16% share of all retail sales and retail offerings.

Identity: On average, the pilot downtowns contain 20 civic and community places, 9 museums, 72 public art installations and 71 historic structures. The average pilot downtown has 30 hotels within the smaller area “downtown” footprint, providing visitors the opportunity to experience the rich set of cultural activities a city’s centre offers.

Resilience: Downtowns in this study consistently and significantly rank higher than their city in Walk Score (9 downtown, 57 city), Transit Score (85 downtown, 52 city), and Bike Score (82 downtown, 57 city). The average pilot downtown contains 6 parks per square mile, providing a multitude of health, environmental, well-being and sustainability benefits

Downtown Typologies: Based on the 13 pilot downtowns, three tiers of downtowns emerged based on average growth in employment, density, population, and assessed value.

  1. Established Downtowns are 4.2% of the city’s land area, holding 40% of citywide jobs, 36% of citywide knowledge jobs, 48% of citywide creative jobs, 49% of citywide office space, 19% of citywide millennials, 7% of the citywide population, 21-49% of citywide tax revenue, 40% of citywide hotels, and a 98 Walk Score.
  2. Growing Downtowns are 4.3% of the city’s land area, holding 29% of citywide jobs, 32% of citywide knowledge jobs, 38% of citywide creative jobs, 44% of citywide office space, 15% of citywide millennials, 6% of the citywide population, 15-52% of citywide tax revenue, 43% of citywide hotels, and a 90 Walk Score
  3. Emerging Downtowns are 1.9% of the city’s land area, holding 26% of citywide jobs, 27% of citywide knowledge jobs, 28% of citywide creative jobs, 31% of citywide office space, 11% of citywide millennials, 3% of the citywide population, 5-33% of citywide tax revenue, 41% of citywide hotels, and an 85 Walk Score

The report concludes by stating that "Downtowns – and their place management organizations – can bring clarifying leadership to these issues, turning challenges into opportunities. We undertook this study with the goal of creating a product that would empower local leaders to work with the public and private sectors at all levels to encourage investment in and support for downtowns. This report makes it clear, investing in downtown delivers powerful benefits for the city and region."

The photos of 4 of the cities involved, Baltimore, Miami, Pittsburgh and San Francisco are taken from Pixabay.