city skyline

A New Era of Downtown Opportunity: The Intersection of Housing and Innovation

Learn specific policy and urban design strategies for adapting downtowns to a new role: innovation communities.

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Course Info

  • Duration 7 video lessons (65 Mins)
  • Published Published
  • Trending Trending
  • 4.51
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Browse Course Chapters

  • Chapter Locked
    Chapter Duration 3 mins
  • Chapter Locked
    How the Pandemic Reshaped (or not) the Future of Downtowns
    Chapter Duration 7 mins
  • Chapter Locked
    The New Norm 101
    Chapter Duration 18 mins
  • Chapter Locked
    Downtown as a Community of Innovation
    Chapter Duration 10 mins
  • Chapter Locked
    Process, Policies, and Principles for Adapting Downtowns to a New Future
    Chapter Duration 14 mins
  • Chapter Locked
    Process, Policies, and Principles for Adapting Downtowns to a New Future, Part II
    Chapter Duration 9 mins
  • Chapter Locked
    Chapter Duration 1 min

What You Will Learn

  • Document the over-reliance that local government has placed on office as the primary driver of downtown growth and why most downtowns will experience minimal net new investment in Class A office space over at least the next decade (despite the widely reported “flight to quality” in office markets).

  • Document the extent to which knowledge and innovation industries will dominate economic growth—and the ability to enhance regional economic opportunity—over the next two decades.

  • Explain how innovation industries are adapting to hybrid work and why placemaking and place-based housing and amenity are increasingly critical to their success as these industries adapt.

  • Learn why downtowns are a natural place to nurture and grow “communities of innovation” that attract and retain talent and promote the spontaneious “creative collisions” that together represent the essential ingredients for a growing innovation economy.

  • Understand specific policy and urban design strategies—including effective use of public/private partnership and other incentives—to adapting downtowns to a new role as innovation communities.

  • Understand the critical role that these strategies can play in making equity and inclusive economic development central to growing knowledge and innovation economies to ensure that their benefits are shared by everyone. 

Course Description

The future of North America’s downtowns is more uncertain than at any point in several decades. In its April 2021 report, “To Recover From COVID-19, Downtowns Must Adapt,” the Brookings Institution wrote: “Across the U.S., the pandemic has left downtowns ‘cratered,’ ‘devastated,’ and ‘abandoned.’” Why? Because downtowns revolve around office space.

In 2019, office uses represented more than 70 percent of downtown square footage in the top 30 US metropolitan areas. While no one yet knows what post-pandemic office occupancy will look like, neither Brookings nor most other observers are predicting a rebound that will return office uses to pre-pandemic levels of occupancy and square footage. In fact, the pandemic accelerated the trend toward hybrid work, though the concept predates March 2020. In fact, net new absorption of office space across North America has been declining for at least two decades, causing a roughly 50 percent decline in downtown net annual absorption since the early 2000s—even before the pandemic’s devastating impacts. 
Despite these challenges, with the right planning and policies in place, downtowns face two decades of unprecedented opportunity. Over the next two decades, dramatic shifts in North America’s economy and demographics will intersect to create a perfect storm of demand for places to live, work, play…and innovate. In fact, some of these forces have already been pumping growing vitality in downtowns for more than a decade. 
This course begins by addressing the changes in North America’s economy and the emerging opportunity for downtowns to grow as communities of innovation and engines for citywide and regional economic growth in a rapidly growing global knowledge economy. The course then shifts focus to the essential role that housing plays in bringing downtown streets to life and attracting the talent that in turn attracts innovation jobs and investment. The course will close with a series of specific planning and urban design strategies for adapting downtowns to this new era of opportunity.

Learn these skills

  • Development
  • Economic Development
  • Economics
  • Housing
  • Land Use
  • Real Estate
  • Technology
  • Transportation
  • Urban Design
  • Urbanism
  • Walkability
  • Zoning Codes


This course is approved for 1 AICP CM credit.


This course is 1 LU.

Meet Your Instructor

David Dixon

David Dixon

David is well known for helping create new, mixed-use urban districts (in both cities and suburbs) and the planning, revitalization, and redevelopment of downtowns.

Meet Instructor

Join thousands of urban planners on Planetizen Courses

I love the visual aids and easy-to-follow graphs in this course.
- James U.
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Extremely informative and crucial for planners and or commissioners.
- Carlos G.
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