by Mario Polese
February 25, 2014
Not so long ago, most urbanists were predicting the demise of downtowns. The data, after all, pointed unambiguously to declining central-city populations and expanding suburban ones. Central business districts were becoming vestigial organs. But most downtowns have begun to grow again. The key to downtown resurgence is jobs—chiefly, jobs in business services. Also, successful downtowns are mixed-use centers that are busy around the clock, not just from nine to five. Cities with resurgent central neighborhoods also have strong metropolitan economies. Finally, policies that restrict real-estate supply downtown—rent control, restrictions on building heights, and so forth—are a luxury that only cities with solid, growing downtowns can afford because they drive up prices in the center and discourage people and businesses from settling there. Abandoning these policies would reinforce the gratifying shift that cities are witnessing: a return to the center.