Economic diversity is key to downtown recovery, study shows

April 30, 2024

Entertainment, restaurants, retail and tourism are playing a key role in driving people back to downtowns, which have seen a drop in office workers caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Those are the findings of recent study from the University of Toronto’s School of Cities.

For the study, researchers analyzed cell phone activity in 62 downtown areas across the U.S. and Canada since January 2020 to understand post-pandemic urban recovery trends.

While office vacancy rates are rising, downtown recovery is sustained by increased shopper and visitor activity, the study showed. This growth in spending in the entertainment districts is making up for decreased worker activity. 

Recovery in cities like Minneapolis, Charlotte, Jacksonville and Houston is being driven by “after-hours” activity, which exceeds pre-pandemic levels significantly, although daytime figures remain low. While many business strategies have focused on bringing workers back to the office, economic diversity may bring relief to commercial building owners.

One example is Louisville, Kentucky, which has developed a blueprint for bringing life back to its downtown by broadening the business district to include residential and attractions.

Gracie Warhurst

Gracie Warhurst has joined Strategic Partnerships, Inc. as a writer and digital content creator for the new Government Market News portal. With a rich background in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin, Warhurst has experience as editor-in-chief of a literary magazine, assistant web editor, and project manager for an AI journalism project. She also contributed as a reporter during the development of SPI's news portal. Warhurst graduated summa cum laude in December 2023 with a Bachelor's in Journalism and a certificate in creative writing, making her a valuable asset to the SPI team.

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