This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

January 17, 2007

Revitalization of Downtowns

In cities in developed countries worldwide, we are seeing a revitalization of downtown areas. Sometimes called “re-gentrification”, this phenomenon is being fueled by a number of trends: First, gasoline prices that remain stubbornly over $2 per gallon have hurt United States’ workers who commute. Some employers even provide supplements to their employees to ease that financial pain.

Second, as populations grow, so does traffic congestion. When Joyce first moved to Greensboro, North Carolina in 1996, she was fond of saying that Greensboro’s idea of traffic congestion was six cars lined up at a red light. Due to development, the traffic congestion has increased substantially.

Americans average about 100 hours commuting each year, about 20 hours longer than the average vacation most U.S. employees receive each year. Folks appreciate the opportunity to live in close proximity to their work, so that they may enjoy better balance between their personal- and work-lives. Living downtown, many people can even walk to work.

We are seeing this development in many parts of the U.S. and in other countries as well. Domestically, communities where this trend is evident include Washington, D.C., El Paso, Texas, and Greensboro, North Carolina. Outside of the U.S., we see this trend in Ottawa and London.

However no where is it more impressive than in Atlanta, Georgia, where the latest project is a multi-billion dollar venture called “Atlantic Station.” Built on the land previously occupied by the Atlantic Steel Mill, this huge development will ultimately include dozens of restaurants (many world-class), an IKEA retail store among numerous others, middle-income to affluent housing for over 10,000 people, and employment opportunities for 30,000 workers.

The problem is often that the existing downtown infrastructure is insufficient to handle the growth of traffic and people. As development drives the exponential growth of money invested in these downtown areas, this ramping up continues to cause critical shortages in skilled labor in the construction industry. Another important implication for employers is the push for them to relocate back to cities. Employers that recognize this trend early will enjoy very favorable pricing for their new plants and offices.

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