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Downtowns: What's Behind America's Most Surprising Real Estate Boom

15 U.S Cities Emerging Downtowns


One of the main factors businesses consider when deciding on where to relocate or expand is the available pool of college-educated workers. And that has cities competing for college-educated young adults. “The American population, contrary to popular opinion, is not very mobile, but there is one very significant exception, what we call ‘the young and the restless,’” explains Lee Fisher, president of CEOs for Cities, a national not-for-profit organization that helps U.S. cities map out economic growth.

And there’s one place this desired demographic, college-educated professionals between the ages of 25 and 34, tends to want to live: tight-knit urban neighborhoods that are close to work and have lots of entertainment and shopping options within an easy walk. In fact this demographic’s population grew 26% from 2000 to 2010 in major cities’ downtowns, or twice as fast as it did in the those cities’ overall metro areas, according to a CEOs for Cities report based on U.S. Census data. That is one of the reasons city planners have been plowing money and resources into revitalizing their core business districts.

“The cities that capture the mobile, college-educated ‘young and restless’ are the ones who are most likely to revitalize their downtowns and accelerate economic progress in their cities,” says Fisher.

Detroit, Mich. 

Detroit has suffered a bad reputation for years now, thanks to its weak economy and mass exodus of residents. "It's a tale of two cities: the one that’s bankrupt and then there’s the one that’s revitalizing its downtown and attracting the 'young and the restless,'" says Lee Fisher of CEOs for Cities.

Detroit's downtown is transforming in large part thanks to billionaire Quicken loans founder Dan Gilbert who has poured millions into redeveloping the area's commercial real estate, relocating many of his businesses to the area.

In 2011, five companies (Quicken Loans, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan, Compuware, DTE Energy, Strategic Staffing Solutions) pledged more than $4 million to encourage and aid employees in buying, renting or remodeling homes in the area. It's part of a larger initiative to attract 15,000 young professionals downtown by 2015, according to Forbes' Joann Muller.

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