Urban Areas Continue Recovery Post-Pandemic

By Hope Walborn | June 25, 2024 | 2 min. read

The median downtown in the United States and Canada’s largest metropolitan areas has seen a 9.3% increase in activity since March 2023, according to a study by the University of Toronto School of Cities.

Of the 64 downtowns included in the study, 50 were in an upward trajectory and only 14 were trending downwards in activity. The study used cell phone data to track activity in each metro area, using March 2023 data as a baseline to compare activity between then and March 2024.

“What’s driving this slow (recovery) is not office work,” School of Cities Professor Karen Chapple told The Business Journals. “Rather, we’re seeing more shopper and visitor activity that’s compensating for the loss of worker activity that we know is happening from increased office vacancy rates.”

After-hours activity has significantly contributed to the overall recovery in many large metros. In Philadelphia, activity during work hours drove recovery by 60%, while after-hours activity drove recovery by 84%. In Pittsburgh, work-hours activity drove recovery by 58%, while after-hours activity drove it by a noteworthy 90%.

Overall, in the top five most recovering downtowns in the United States, Pittsburgh fell at No. 4, with a 30.5% change in visits year over year. A bit farther down the list, Philadelphia’s recovery rate was 18.0%, putting it at No. 15.

The study found that the fastest recovering downtowns in the United States as of March 2024 were:

  1. Minneapolis, 45.3% increase
  2. Chicago, 35.5%
  3. Louisville, 32.5%
  4. Pittsburgh, 30.5%
  5. Cincinnati, 28.3%

The slowest recovering metros were:

  1. San Francisco, -21.6% decrease
  2. San Antonio, -17.5%
  3. Fort Worth, -9.4%
  4. Colorado Springs, -8.1%
  5. Las Vegas, -7.7%

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