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 U.S. 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 I first moved to Greensboro, N.C., in 1996, I was fond of saying that Greensboro’s idea of traffic congestion was six cars lined up at a red light. Because of 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 near 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. Outside the U.S., we see this trend in Ottawa and London.
However nowhere is it more impressive than in Atlanta, 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 more than 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.
From The Herman Trend Alert, by Joyce Gioia-Herman, strategic business futurist.