How to Kickstart an Urban Resurgence

In the age of remote work, relying on major employers to boost a city’s economic fortunes may no longer be enough.

2 minute read

October 12, 2023, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Aerial view of high-rise buildings on waterfront in Boston, Massachusetts

Downtown Boston, Massachusetts. | Sean Pavone / Boston, Massachusetts

Writing in Route Fifty, Molly Bolan comments that “the rise of remote work has permanently changed urban economies, and cities are going to have to double down on their strengths to attract more residents.” Referencing a study of six powerhouse U.S. cities that, in the past, wooed big corporations to develop their economies, Bolan writes that they will now have to shift their focus to luring residents with other amenities. “Without the call of the office bringing people downtown, cities and states will need to get creative in finding new ways to keep metro economies afloat.”

“Between 2020 and 2022, the six cities were among those that saw the greatest declines in population in the country, with New York losing more than 400,000 residents in those two years, according to the Census Bureau. Meanwhile, nine of the 15 fastest-growing cities in the U.S. are in Southern states and four are in the West, thanks to lower housing costs, shorter commutes, and remote work.”

According to Doug Howgate, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, “At a fundamental level, your economy and your society only succeed if you have the resource of people.” In the case of Boston, which previously relied on downtown workers, the city has launched a $1 billion life sciences initiative that seeks to support the city’s biopharmaceutical industry and create new opportunities for people to live and work there.

Howgate notes that there is no ‘silver bullet’ for maintaining growth, and that disruptions like the pandemic will likely continue. Cities must identify their unique advantages: “Building a strong urban economy requires understanding the complex relationships around housing, life sciences, federal funding and taxes,” says Howgate.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023 in Route Fifty

Large blank mall building with only two cars in large parking lot.

Pennsylvania Mall Conversion Bill Passes House

If passed, the bill would promote the adaptive reuse of defunct commercial buildings.

April 18, 2024 - Central Penn Business Journal

Aerial view of Oakland, California with bay in background

California Exodus: Population Drops Below 39 Million

Never mind the 40 million that demographers predicted the Golden State would reach by 2018. The state's population dipped below 39 million to 38.965 million last July, according to Census data released in March, the lowest since 2015.

April 11, 2024 - Los Angeles Times

A view straight down LaSalle Street, lined by high-rise buildings with an El line running horizontally over the street.

Chicago to Turn High-Rise Offices into Housing

Four commercial buildings in the Chicago Loop have been approved for redevelopment into housing in a bid to revitalize the city’s downtown post-pandemic.

April 10, 2024 - Chicago Construction News

Purple jacaranda trees in bloom in Los Angeles with tall white Art Deco buildings in background.

LA County Releases Draft Community Forest Management Plan

LA County's Chief Sustainability Office just released the discussion draft of Room to Grow, the first Community Forest Management Plan for the county.

3 hours ago - Los Angeles County Chief Sustainability Office

Aerial view of downtown Seattle, Washington at dusk.

Seattle Downtown Plan Expands Permitted Uses

The Downtown Activation Plan shifts from Euclidean to form-based zoning to encourage more commercial development.

5 hours ago - Governing

Large water pipe with brown water pouring out into dirt ditch.

Southern Water Infrastructure at Risk From Climate Impacts

A water main breaks somewhere in the United States every two minutes, according to an estimate from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

7 hours ago - The Conversation

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.