Preliminary Survey Findings for Place-Management Organizations (PMOs) in the Washington Region

Before the New Directions in Place Leadership workshop, the Georgetown Urban and Regional Planning Program conducted an online survey. These are some of the preliminary findings.

Who and Where?

The majority of respondents to the Place Leadership survey represent organizations in the public and non-profit sectors. Most of these are Business Improvement Districts and Main Street programs, though there is a considerable representation of government employees at both the local and federal levels. Despite a broad range of respondents, 85% said their organization manages a specific urban district or neighborhood. There are more place-management organizations in DC proper than the surrounding region. However, both Northern Virginia and Maryland have many organizations representing specific districts, with Arlington Co. having the most in a single jurisdiction outside of DC.

What type of organization do you represent?

Do you manage a specific place or urban district?

Most respondent organizations have fewer than 25 employees and 20 board members. Roughly 64% and 75% respectively. Surprisingly, a large proportion (over 60%) are organizations with budgets well over $1 million. This raises interesting questions since respondents typically cited project costs and funding restraints as major impediments to pursuing projects.

How many staff work at your organization?

What is your annual operating budget?

What are they doing?

The majority of respondents indicated that their organizations are involved in some way with place management, place design or clean and safe programs. This shows a heavy emphasis on the built environment and a focus on design and maintenance of attractive public spaces. Additionally, this focus on the physical aspects of a district is enhanced by many organizations reporting that they are also planning events and programming spaces. These events and district improvements, as well as the activities of area businesses, are then promoted by marketing efforts, social media outreach and branding campaigns. Other areas of focus rounding out a district’s workload include coordinating projects and services with public agencies as well as local business development. While many organizations across the region produce annual reports that monitor these activities, there can certainly be improvements. 36% of respondents indicated that their organization does not produced an annual report.

Please tell us more about your organization’s activities

Do you produce an annual report on the performance of your place?

Where is assistance needed?

Responses varied widely to write-in questions regarding the needs of place-making organizations. For example, a question about capacity building led to an array of specific projects in need of specific help. However, there were some general trends that could be understood from these responses. Many organizations are concerned with effectively programming spaces. Specifically, there is a need to help PMOs understand what draws people to a place and where they should focus limited programming resources. Cost concerns related to any kind of improvement seemed to be a recurring theme. This may explain why spurring private investment and getting public funds for infrastructure improvements or transportation related needs was also a big focus.

In order to leverage funds most effectively, organizations responded that they need better information. Though one size doesn’t fit all, there seems to be interest in case studies for programs and projects that are proven to provide the greatest economic impact. Luckily, there is a keen interest in forging more partnerships in order to address some of these funding and information constraints. This is a good indication that the network Georgetown is seeking to establish is desperately needed in the region.

Which of the following areas of activity would help the Washington Region become the premier metropolitan region for the practice of place-making and place management?