P.U.M.A.’s Global Trends Report 2014 – Downtowns Reborn

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City graphicThis week, in collaboration with the University of Colorado Denver, we are releasing the 2014 edition of Top Ten Global Trends Affecting Downtowns and How to Respond at Home. To our knowledge, the P.U.M.A. Global Trends Report is the only publication that 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.

The overall conclusion from Global Trends 2014 is that downtowns and urban districts have never been in a more favorable competitive position in the post-World War II era. A variety of market forces are converging to attract investment, businesses, jobs and residents into city centers. Nearly 30 years into my own downtown and community development career, the transformation of city centers is nothing short of remarkable. For decades, we’ve toiled with a variety of interventions, incentives and improvement strategies, but never have the winds of so many market forces been pushing our sails.

This edition of Global Trends casts a broader and deeper research net as we benefited from the work of 22 graduate students within the University of Colorado Denver School of Architecture and Planning. More than 150 sources from the planet’s best minds, think tanks and urban philosophers were utilized. Here are some of the highlights:

Demographic trends shaping cities include the urban lifestyle preferences of the highly skilled and sought after Millennials, downsizing by empty nest Baby Boomers, the ascendance of Generation X into leadership positions and the influence of young professional women in the workforce. If anyone doubts why downtowns should care about attracting Millennials, consider that today they comprise 36% of the American workforce and will account for 50% by 2020. Any city that wants to preserve or expand its job base will need to attract this demographic, a generation that seeks urban amenities in cities large and small.

Lifestyle trends continue to benefit urban areas. Consumer patterns are changing, elevating the “sharing economy” that favors urban districts and challenging conventional retail formats. In the past, we designed cities to move vehicles in and out efficiently; however, to promote economic development into the future, cities must now reclaim the public realm for a variety of modes – making our streets more walkable, bikable and transit-rich. Driving miles are decreasing as Millennials and Boomers seek alternatives to cars. The desirability of biking and walking is growing across all generations as part of a societal awakening to pursue healthier and more active lifestyles. The proliferation of bike sharing programs worldwide is the fastest growing mode of transport ever in the history of the planet.

Global competition continues to influence our choices in America. A burgeoning global middle class promises to consume more commodities and resources, creating cost advantages for re-using both existing buildings and infrastructure in cities. The rapid advancement of mobile technologies is reshaping how we live, from our social habits to the design of our offices and public spaces. Next year, there will be more mobile connections on Earth than there are humans. Cities can benefit from dramatic changes in manufacturing processes, including 3D printing, and communities that create clusters of innovation will prosper.

New trends shaping cities featured in the 2014 report include the growing economic clout of single Boomer women, the rise of regional collaboration to support investment in education and infrastructure, and, with income inequality at its most extreme since 1928, an emerging focus on social equity – a policy issue that will increasingly demand time, attention and solutions from downtown advocates.

All in all, we hope that you find the 2014 edition of P.U.M.A.’s Global Trends Report an illuminating and useful read.

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