Atlanta to host International Downtown Association conference

April 1,2016

The Super Bowl of downtown and urban development is heading to Atlanta for only the second time.

The International Downtown Association (IDA) will bring more than 1,000 urban district management professionals from around the world Sept. 7-9 for its 62nd annual conference and trade show. And downtown Atlanta will become a learning laboratory for conference attendees, many of whom may be visiting the city for the first time.

The conference theme “Progress through Partnership” will explore how district management organizations form partnerships to achieve impact, embrace trends and solve problems that face downtowns and urban districts across the globe.

The conference will include breakout sessions focused in the areas of infrastructure, affordable housing, placemaking and public safety and will examine how collaborative partnerships can help make improvements. “We are bringing together urban district management professionals that deal with these issues on a daily basis,” said David Downey, president and CEO of International Downtown Association. “They will exchange ideas and solutions about the role public-private relationships can play in making urban districts vibrant and active.”

Conference attendees are expected to come from ten different countries. And, it provides a face-to-face opportunity for attendees to interact with other global urban management leaders. “The program itself is well planned and executed,” said Richard Fleming, chairman and CEO of Community Development Ventures Inc. and former IDA board chairman. “And, equally important to the program content is the ability to network with peers. It is the sharing of best practices and the sharing of where things did and did not work that is beneficial to attendees.”

Central Atlanta Progress Inc. (CAP) will serve as host partner for the IDA Atlanta conference. As host, CAP will work with IDA in the planning and executing of the conference. “We are planning with IDA staff exactly how our visitors will interact and learn in Atlanta,” said A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress.

CAP serves as an example of utilizing the private sector to advance the success of urban neighborhoods and central business districts. “The public-private relationship is real and CAP is a good model of this. They have spent decades building meaningful public-private partnerships for downtown Atlanta’s benefit,” said Downey.

The conference will also present 12 master talks, eight- to 15-minute talks from thought leaders on topics that impact urban centers. “The master talks give attendees expert outside perspectives on tough issues facing our industry,” said Downey. “Topics such as security, police, homelessness, politics and social equality are hit hard during these talks.” The 2016 Atlanta conference Master Talks will be announced in May.

At the conference, awards will be presented to recognize outstanding improvements to downtowns around the globe through the Downtown Achievement Awards. The categories range from planning to marketing and communications. “The awards highlight innovative programs that exhibit industry best practice ideas,” said Downey.

Atlanta will host the international conference for only the second time in its 62-year history. The conference will take place at the Westin Peachtree Plaza and will put the city on an international stage for urban management.

“Atlanta will serve as a learning laboratory at the conference, as attendees will see first-hand its best practices, challenges and success stories,” said Downey. “IDA ultimately selected Atlanta because it provides inspiring public-private partnership examples for attendees to learn from. Also, we chose Atlanta because of our strong local host partner, Central Atlanta Progress.”

At the conference, Atlanta will showcase its own downtown best practices. “Atlanta is considered by people in the field as a model for the public-private partnerships the conference is addressing,” said Fleming.

Downey believes attendees will be interested in the Atlanta Beltline and downtown’s Ambassador Force, in which trained professionals provide residents, tourists, conventioneers, employees and business owners with a variety of information and assistance.

The economic benefit to the city will not just be felt by attendees staying in hotels and dining in Atlanta like a typical conference. “These attendees are passionate about urban centers. They aren’t going to be just sitting in the conference. They are going to go out in Atlanta and explore,” said Catherine Lee, economic development coordinator at the city of Decatur and IDA conference steering committee member. “They are going to take city tours, sightsee and use public transportation.”

Conference attendees will explore Atlanta and take ideas back to their own cities. “You will see attendees observing and even taking photos of things such as trash cans, wayfinding signs and parking meters,” said Lee.

Downtown Atlanta experienced significant growth and success beginning with well-known Atlanta city leader and former CAP president, Dan Sweat. IDA even named a Downtown Lifetime Achievement Award in memory of Sweat. “Atlanta is a legend in city and economic development. This may be the first time attendees have visited the city and see the benefits first pioneered by CAP and Dan Sweat,” said Fleming.

Keynote speakers and specific conference itineraries are still being finalized for the September conference. “This IDA annual conference is like the Super Bowl for those of us in the world of downtown and urban development,” said Robinson. “It only comes around once a year and CAP and the city of Atlanta are excited to host it.”