Business Trends

Top 10 Global Trends Affecting Downtowns, by Progressive Urban Management Associates

File Type: Free Content, Article
Release Date: March 2014
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K Street, Washington, D.C.

Since 2006, Progressive Urban Management Associates (P.U.M.A.) has been examining trends shaping American cities. Last month (Feb. 23), the group released its 2014 Global Trends Report, “Top Ten Global Trends Affecting Downtowns and How to Respond at Home,” in collaboration with the University of Colorado Denver. The report “looks at top trends in demographics, lifestyles and global competition, places them in the unique context of city centers and suggests implications for downtown management organizations, business leaders and local decision-makers” — including commercial real estate professionals.

The report’s overall conclusion is that downtowns and urban districts have never been in a more favorable competitive position in the post-World War II era, as a variety of market forces converge to attract investment, businesses, jobs and residents into city centers. It cites 10 top thought-provoking trends in demographics, lifestyles and global competition:

  1. Changing American Demographics, with four distinct generations (baby boomers, Generation X, millennials, and Generation Z) now shaping cities.
  2. Education, Talent and Jobs, with cities that cultivate and are able to fill mid- and high-wage jobs in the best position to flourish economically.
  3. The Influence of Women, who have been outpacing men in educational attainment since the 1970s and are expected to dominate many professional occupations in the future.
  4. Changing Consumer Behaviors, as the pre-recession era of impulse-driven consumption is replaced by more practical and deliberate spending.
  5. Shifts in Transportation and Mobility, as transportation preferences move away from autos and toward walking, biking, and transit — and as “walkable real estate” can command premiums of 50 to 100 percent.
  6. Health and Wellness, with a growing healthcare industry and an increasing focus on the connections between health and the built environment.
  7. The Rise of Regionalism, as “an emerging trend of regional collaboration and investment marks a historic shift in [states and municipalities] taking on responsibilities once reserved for higher levels of government.”
  8. A Shift in Global Wealth, as China and other emerging economies grow and their populations become more urbanized.
  9. Continued Advances in Technology, as rapid advancement of mobile technologies is reshaping how and where Americans live and work.
  10. Social Equity, the Neglected Pillar of Sustainability, as “many urban areas are on the verge of becoming enclaves of the rich, unable to house or sustain service workers or middle income professionals.”