InTouch | The BDA's Newsletter for the Downtown Community
October 11, 2007

Whence the future?
BDA to host City Council Candidates Forum
City rolls out mobility, livability projects
BAM's five exhibitions, 2-for-1 BDA Member offer
IBT's Dracula returns to Meydenbauer Theatre
Commute around I-405 construction
Countdown to Roads & Transit vote
Lessons from New York City
Ten global trends affecting downtowns
Welcome New Members!

Council Candidates Forum
October 26 - 7:30 a.m. 
Meydenbauer Center  
Ten global trends affecting downtowns
Leslie Lloyd

At the recent International Downtown Association (IDA) Annual Conference in New York City, IDA member and presenter Brad Segal from Denver-based Progressive Urban Management Associates (PUMA) presented a talk on recent research his firm conducted - entitled Ten Top Trends Affecting Downtowns and How to Respond at Home.  Our staff would like to share with you the trends PUMA’s research identified.

PUMA consulted over 120 sources in this research (coincidentally, PUMA is helping our counterparts in Seattle, the Downtown Seattle Association, create a new economic competitiveness strategy); their main findings on the top 10 trends affecting downtowns are summarized below, in three main categories:


1. Changing American Demographics
  • Baby boomers are retiring with money, and are looking not only to downsize but to connect in a community of similar-minded folks.  This is driving demand for different types of housing, a lot of which will be in urban centers like Bellevue.
  • Gen-Xers, the generation born between 1961 and 1981 are big consumers – they’ll spend $125 billion a year in goods and services.  They are just now coming into the home-buying age, and within the next five years will enter their peak earning years.
  • Millenials, born between 1977 and 2003 have never lived without technology and are the most education-minded generation ever.  Although optimistic about the future, they think their lives will be worse than their parents (boomers), and that they’ll be shouldering an unfair burden of national debt.

2. Immigration

  • The US is the only major industrialized country in the world that is expanding, and it’s due to immigration. Immigrants to this country are skipping the central cities (too expensive, crowded, poor schools, lack of jobs) and are settling instead in suburbs and rural areas (less expensive housing, better schools, fewer gangs).
  • Nearly half of America’s largest cities are now a majority minority population (meaning minorities make up more than half of the population; Bellevue recently reached over 30% foreign-born).
  • Microsoft’s workforce has now reached 83,000 worldwide, with 36,000 in the Puget Sound region; 10,000 of their Puget Sound workers are from another country (source: Microsoft's Brad Smith speaking at Overlake Hospital Medical Center's breakfast on October 10.) 

3. Creative Class Changes

  • Women are emerging as the most influential element of the Creative Class, and for the first time in history, will comprise the majority of the American workforce by 2010.
  • Despite growing in size, the Creative Class is still not well-enough educated to meet the needs of our global economy going forward (see note on Microsoft, above).


4. Traffic Congestion and the Value of Time

  • Congestion continues to increase, with a nationwide toll of $63 billion (2003).
  • Increasing road capacity is not reducing congestion (but the data doesn’t show if that’s because not enough capacity is being built or if other factors are in play).
  • Transit use increasing, and for the first time, transit ridership growth exceeded growth in driving, on a nationwide basis.  27 US Metro areas have transit systems and 15 are planning new ones. 
  • Six million households live within a half-mile of a transit station; demand for housing near transit expected to grow by over 16 million households (by 2030).

5. Health Care/Wellness/Recreation

  • Health care delivery systems are changing – hospital use and length of stay are declining as cost-containment strategies are implemented.
  • Doctors and nurses are in short supply nationwide as demand for health care services increases - nearly 46 million are uninsured.
  • Although Baby Boomers are aging and expected to live longer, they are much more active than their predecessors, and seek environments where they can walk, bike and engage in outdoor activities.

6. Growth in Tourism

  • Tourism is the world’s largest employer; the US is ranked third as an international tourist destination.
  • Cultural heritage tourism is a growing form of tourism – 81% of US adults traveling in 2002 fell into this category, visiting for sporting, cultural, musical or heritage events.

7. America’s Growing Debt Burden

  • Our debt burden (nearly $9 trillion) looms as an economic cloud.
  • US has highest incomes in the world, but also the highest levels of personal debt.
  • A high national debt means fewer Federal funds available to support local needs, particularly transportation infrastructure – leaving regions like Puget Sound to fund more of their own needs.

Global Competition and Change

8. Emergence of China, India and a Planetary Middle Class

  • The US growth rate has declined, but the rest of the world is growing rapidly.
  • Economic choices by China and India will bear on how resources are consumed around the world, leading to higher competition for non-renewable resources like oil.
  • In 2010, India will become the country with the most English speakers in the world.

9. Continued Advances in Technology

  • Technology will have the greatest impacts in health, alternative energy, engineering, quality of life enhancements, and business – strong sectors here in Bellevue.
  • The world has been ‘flattened,’ globalization being driven by individuals who can do business independently and instantly.
  • Business will recruit from a global labor market, because they can now go beyond geography – what does that mean for places?

10. Environmentalism, Sustainability and Climate Change

  • For the first time in history, a majority of the world’s population now lives in urban centers (2007).
  • This will be followed by an unprecedented urban expansion – the population in urban centers will double over the next 43 years.
  • Leading to a greater push for sustainability in building design and city planning.

For a complete report, including what cities might do at home to respond to these global trends, link to the report or visit Progressive Urban Management Associates at

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