Introducing "Core Values: Why American Companies are Moving Downtown"

In 2010, global biotechnology company Biogen moved its offices from downtown Cambridge, MA, to a large suburban campus in Weston, 25 minutes away. In 2014, less than four years later, the company moved back.

“There is so much going on in Cambridge,” said Chris Barr, Biogen’s Associate Director of Community Relations. “It is such a vibrant place to live and work—it’s been a great move back for us.”

Biogen is one of hundreds of companies across the United States that have moved to and invested in walkable downtowns over the past five years. Our newest research takes a closer look at this emerging trend.

Core Values: Why American Companies are Moving Downtown is a new report released today by Smart Growth America in partnership with Cushman & Wakefield and the George Washington University School of Business’ Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis. The new report examines nearly 500 companies that moved to or expanded in walkable downtowns between 2010 and 2015, and includes interviews with more than 40 senior-level staff at those companies.

The results provide an overview of why these companies chose a walkable downtown and what they looked for when considering a new location. The report also includes ideas for cities about how they can create the kinds of places these companies seek.

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Smart growth news – October 6

Big-box development on outskirts of Woodland leaves downtown in decline
Sacramento Bee, October 6, 2011
Proud and provincial, Woodland was once a compact square surrounded by some of the state’s richest farmland. Victorian mansions, stately civic buildings and turn-of-the-century storefronts still line the city’s downtown streets, reminders of its past prosperity as the seat of Yolo County government. But in recent years, the city of 55,000 has struggled to define itself as it grew in an irregular patchwork to the south and east along Interstate 5 and Highway 113.

Planner: Lakeland’s Urban Growth Can Provide More Tax Revenue Than Malls
The Ledger (Fla.), October 5, 2011
City officials need to look downtown for tax revenue rather than sprawling, dense suburban developments. That’s what Peter Katz, director of smart growth/urban planning for Sarasota County, told more than a hundred people at the Downtown Lakeland Partnership’s State of Downtown lunch Wednesday at The Lakeland Center.

Insurer UnitedHealthcare merges into 2 new sites
Arizona Republic, October 5, 2011
Jones said UnitedHealthcare’s move was planned to help Phoenix bolster its downtown economy. “It also was an opportunity to consolidate our team and help with some efficiencies,” Jones said.

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Companies migrate from suburbs to downtown Chicago

During the past five years, at least 10 companies have relocated some or all of their business to downtown Chicago, including United Airlines, BP, Thomson Reuters and Willis Group Holdings. Now, according to a story in this weekend’s Chicago Tribune, other major employers like Acco Brands, Sara Lee Corp. and Barilla are also considering moving back to the city – and they’re not alone.

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Smart growth news – August 1

NY law allows land banks to address blight
Associated Press via Wall Street Journal, July 31, 2011
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed a new law allowing for creation of municipal land banks, which take control of problem properties and then redevelop or dispose of them.

In search for talent, companies relocating to downtown Chicago
Chicago Tribune, July 31, 2011
As the office-space market slowly recovers, downtown Chicago is benefiting from a trend long in the making: companies relocating from the suburbs.

With no room to grow, Winchester has a plan to revitalize its core
Boston Globe, July 31, 2011
Winchester’s quaint town center, with its independent shops and boutiques, is known as the heart of the community, but a closer look reveals it is not beating as strongly as it could. With roughly 95 percent of Winchester’s tax base reliant on residential property and no open space for new development, town officials have turned their attention to the underutilized town center.

Louisville’s ‘brain gain’: Reversing a trend, number of better-educated young adults is on the rise
Courier-Journal (Ky.), July 29, 2011
Lynn Bosscher knew little about Louisville besides the Kentucky Derby when she moved here last year from Grand Rapids, Mich. Now some of her regular haunts are Cherokee Park and El Mundo — the cozy Frankfort Avenue restaurant where she takes guests from out of town.

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Smart growth news – June 24, 2011

Poor transit system, sprawl make trips to work difficult
Kansas City Star (Kan.), June 22, 2011
A Washington think tank ranks Kansas City’s transit system among the worst in the country at getting people to jobs. Part of the blame belongs to our spread-out growth pattern, which has pulled an ever-larger share of jobs to the suburbs — beyond the easy reach of buses. “We don’t just have a transit problem, we have a job-sprawl problem,” said Ron McLinden, a public transportation advocate with the Transit Action Network in Kansas City. The recent report by the Brookings Institution ranked the Kansas City area 90th among 100 metro areas based on how well its bus system serves the workforce.

Headquarters come and go – it’s jobs that count
Raleigh News & Observer (N.C.), June 23, 2011
The Triangle: A great place to live and work; not so great for a corporate headquarters. You’d never hear this region’s boosters utter such a line, but it’s hard not to at least think it after a week in which the Triangle received another economic pat on the back and downtown Raleigh lost another headquarters. The accolade came from the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, which ranked the Triangle among the 20 strongest performing metro areas in the U.S. through the first quarter.

Transformation Detroit: Dan Gilbert’s grand plan for downtown tech hub, retail and residential
MLive.com (Mich.), June 23, 2011
These days, it seems like everybody has a plan to revitalize Detroit. But unlike many would-be visionaries, Dan Gilbert has what it takes to get it done: Money. Boatloads of it. The Quicken Loans founder and chairman is in the process of purchasing the 23-story Dime Building near Campus Martius, which would be his fourth major downtown real estate acquisition in the past 10 months, including the First National Building, Chase Tower and the Madison Theatre Building.

Walking expert prescribes ‘road diets,’ traffic circles for cities seeking street makeovers
Associated Press via Washington Post, June 20, 2011
Today, with the health, environmental and quality-of-life benefits of walk-able neighborhoods, they can’t get enough of Burden. Even in car-dependent Southern California, where he spent a few of his roughly 340 days a year on the road this spring, city planners are literally walking the talk alongside him.

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