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UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM
From Site Selection magazine, July 2015
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FUN HOMES

Decision-makers explain why they’re moving their companies downtown. Others see downtowns coming to them.

UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM
Events and firms alike are alighting on the former American Tobacco campus in downtown Durham, N.C.
Photo courtesy of American Underground

by ADAM BRUNS
A

new report released in June by Smart Growth America — “Core Values: Why American Companies are Moving Downtown” — includes comments from leaders at more than 40 of nearly 500 companies the organization, in partnership with Cushman & Wakefield, identified as having moved operations to more than 100 city centers across the US in the past five years. Among the comments:

“Our younger employees don’t want to go to a suburban office park. It’s boring as all get-out out there. Here they walk outside and see cool stuff and it’s fun. I wanted to be where they wanted to be.”

Reg Shiverick, President, Dakota Software, Cleveland, Ohio

“Downtown Detroit is undervalued from a real estate perspective and its available capacity allowed for large-scale expansion. We recruited 6,500 new team members. They are excited about being in an urban area, and being part of something bigger than the company itself.”

Matt Cullen, President and CEO, Rock Ventures LLC, Detroit, Mich.

“Transportation is huge. We chose a location just three blocks from the Raleigh Amtrak station, in large part to help us stay connected to entrepreneurial communities in places like Durham and Chapel Hill.”

Ashton Smith, Community & Employee Engagement Project Manager, Operations, Citrix, Raleigh, N.C.

“When you have young people straight out of engineering school who are bragging about how cool it is to work at your office, you’ve hit a home run.”

Bill Siegel, President and CEO, Kleinfelder, San Diego, Calif.

“Pittsburgh’s investment in its downtown has produced significant, real outcomes. More people are now living downtown, there are more restaurants, more cultural opportunities, more fun by an order of magnitude.”

Thomas Donohoe, President, Level Interactive, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Affordable parking and affordable housing are two primary issues for those downtown locators. And Geoff Anderson, president and CEO of Smart Growth America, pointed out that not everybody is moving downtown, with some suburbs in places such as Phoenix and Greater Dallas-Fort Worth essentially building their own downtowns. “What we’re seeing is people looking to move from unwalkable to walkable with transit,” he said, “and in some cases those are not CBDs.”

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