Mapping out the urban core
In the study, we defined the city center as a circle with its center point in the middle of the town. We then defined the demarcation by calculating walking routes of 750 meters (around 2,500 ft) from this center point. The aim was to map the composition and development of the town’s more central areas.
The study shows that the Sweden’s economically strongest city center is Jönköping. Some of the characteristics that the economically strongest urban cores share are a large population and that they are typically college towns. The least future-proof town is Falköping. The economically strong city centers are also expected to show a positive population trend in the coming years.
In addition, the study shows that the population in the city center generally accounts for just under 10 percent of the population of the municipality. On average, just over 40 percent have a higher level of education, and 23 percent are employed in the knowledge economy. The proportion of people employed in the knowledge economy is highest in Oskarshamn, where the share is nearly 50 percent. At the other extreme is Trelleborg, where only just over 8 percent of the population work in the knowledge economy. It is also worth noting that more than 40 percent of the population are employed in the public sector. There are relatively big differences between all the city centers. One factor that also has an impact is where the economic focal point of the municipality lies.
The study also maps the level of education in the city centers. Here too, variation between the cities is great: in Lund, for example, 78 percent of residents have a higher level of education, while the figure is only 26 percent in Katrineholm.
Mobility, or options for personal transportation, are another area of research. Here we found that accessibility to public transit in the municipalities as a whole is generally fairly good. Another aspect is how many households have cars in the city center. Car density is consistently lower in the city center than in the municipality as a whole. Car density is lowest in Lund and highest in Trollhättan.
In summary, we can see that urban cores are major sources of economic value: not only materially, in the form of infrastructure and housing, for example, but also in the form of social capital.
In the study, we present a number of policy recommendations aimed at managing these sources of value. Essentially, these recommendations focus on strengthening city centers from an economic point of view.
For example, we suggest that we should work actively to ensure that more residents and offices move into city centers. A growing population leads to greater purchasing power, which benefits retailers and restaurants. Attracting more companies helps boost clustering effects, contributing to economic growth.
We also believe that we should work proactively to identify future challenges. This may, for example, involve ensuring that the town’s labor market is not too dependent on one individual industry. The broader the spread of industries, the better equipped the town is to deal with cyclical fluctuations and structural changes that can quickly change the need for labor. For example, if a major player leaves the city center, this may have significant effects on the town’s attractiveness.
Development of city centers sometimes focuses too little on strengthening trade and other visit-intensive industries. We believe it is important to understand that urban development is about strengthening the town as a whole as well as the surrounding region. What’s good for the town is good for the region, and vice versa.
More quick facts