Downtown Trends

For the past 25 years, about every five years (a lustrum) DANTH, Inc. has engaged in a review of the social, economic and political trends that are — or soon will be– affecting the health and well-being of downtown, urban neighborhood and Main Street commercial districts. We do this because it is an essential asset when we work on any kind of revitalization strategy for our clients.  Since 2013, we have integrated our downtown trends research into a steady stream of posts to our Downtown Curmudgeon blog (that is also on this website) because we wanted to get them published as soon as they were completed.

Below are links to DANTH’s earlier downtown trends research papers that we believe still have relevance today.

Our 2003-2008 assessment identified the growth of downtown housing as a very important trend. Housing’s importance generated substantial coverage by many others. Consequently, in our 2008-2013 trends assessment,  we did not revisit downtown housing. However, downtown housing patterns have continued to change and housing is rapidly returning as a major downtown issue, though one looking quite different from its past manifestation. We started to again covered it in 2014 in posts to the Downtown Curmudgeon and we will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Two of the most important products of the 2008-2013 assessment, a research paper on downtown multichannel retailing and a PowerPoint presentation on the deliberate consumer are spotlighted and available elsewhere on this website.  Below are some of the other topics we covered in our assessment:

Downtown Movie Theaters Will Be Increasingly In Great Danger.  Movie theaters have long been viewed as important foundation stones for downtown entertainment niches. Electronics, however, have made home and mobile viewing easier and cheaper. Attendance at cinemas is declining. Movie theater ticket sales  account for a small portion of studio revenues. Cinemas are far too important for the downtowns that have them for their downtown EDOs to be passive about keeping them active and vibrant. The 2008 trends research paper provides an in-depth analysis of the challenges downtown cinemas face. It was updated in the  Downtown Formal Entertainment Venues Part 4: Movie Theaters post to the Downtown Curmudgeon in 2014.

Rethinking Downtown Entertainment Niches.  Changing consumer behaviors strongly suggest that downtown leaders rethink their conceptions of downtown entertainment niches, shifting their emphasis from formal to informal entertainments. This research paper is the foundation stone of a long series of articles on formal and informal entertainment venues that have appeared in the Downtown Curmudgeon blog. 

Time-pressured people continue to be downtowns’ best friends. Time-pressured Americans are finding downtowns are places that best accommodate their busy lives.

Food: Capture What You Should Own.  For the vast majority of downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts a strong food for the home niche will be their strongest customer traffic generator and a key component in their community’s quality of life.

The Mommy Niche. While most households today are childless, in a significant number of suburban towns and big city neighborhoods  25% to 40% of their households have children under 18. The moms in these households are usually extremely time stressed and value proximity and convenience. Downtown retailers that can respond to their particular needs will do well.

Retailing is in for much tougher times. This is an early look at how the Great Recession was combining with pre-existing trends to change consumer behavior and retailing in long-lasting ways.

Apparel and Home & Hearth Niches. How the Great recession impacted on these two retail niches and how they will fare in downtowns in the near future.

Downtown Crime Redux.  Districts that have a crime problem are sticking out like a sore thumb because so many others seem to have dealt with it. We know how to reduce crime and the fear of crime.

Downtown Friendly Parking and New Technology. Resolving downtown parking problems will continue to depend on better parking management, especially techniques that help drivers to quickly and easily find  vacant spaces. However, more attention must be paid to how much scarce, valuable and strategic downtown land is being devoted to massive, pedestrian unfriendly and fear-inducing parking structures. There are ways to effectively address this issue and more and more downtowns are adopting them.

Downtown Friendly Parking

Robotic Parking in a Dense Urban Context

Impressive Parking at The Grove in L.A.