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ULI: ten steps to creating more resilient post-pandemic cities

The upheaval caused by the pandemic can lead to a constructive reflection on how to make cities more resilient, delegates heard at Real Asset Media’s Repurposing city centres investment briefing, which was held online on the REALX.Global platform yesterday.

“Change can be good and bring about new concepts and ideas, so that cities stay vibrant but they don’t all look the same,” said Sabine Georgi, managing director Germany, Austria & Switzerland, ULI Europe.

She presented an exclusive preview of a new 200-page ULI book titled European Cities After Corona: Strategies for Resilient Cities which was based on an extensive continent-wide survey.

Sabine Georgi.

The results of the study can be summarised in ten key points. The first is that digitalisation changes the cost-benefit relationship.

“Many Europeans turned to online shopping and worked from home for the first time during the pandemic,” said Georgi. “Now cities have to find new answers to the question why should I choose to live in a city, when it’s such an expensive place to be?”

The second point is about the advantages of density in the city centre, with a new awareness that the main advantage is the social interaction that the city allows, which has become more of a focus during the pandemic.

The third issue is that Covid-19 has had an impact on all real estate classes, but with big differences between them. “There is a huge demand for residential, but location has become even more important,” she said. “It’s a consolidation phase for hotels, but they will have more functions to fulfil. In future they will be more like mixed-use spaces open to local people. As for offices, in the buildings there will be more space for meetings and socialisation.”

The fourth point is about growth: demand for more housing and for bigger flats means that cities throughout Europe will keep growing, becoming wider and taller.

More thought and planning needed for multi-use open areas

The fifth trend is about the multiple uses of open spaces: city squares will become venues for markets, for open-air concerts or theatre, or just for socialising. “A lot more thought and planning will be devoted to the multi-use of open spaces in city centres,” said Georgi.

The sixth point is also the biggest challenge: increasing cooperation between the public and the private sector, which is key to transforming cities. The seventh trend is the growth of mixed-use, both within buildings and in neighbourhoods.

The eighth point is about polycentric cities, that will retain the traditional centre but will also have lively neighbourhood hubs. “The ninth trend will be adopted from the internet, and it’s about cities networks, especially in the big metropolitan areas,” said Georgi.

The tenth and final point is that in order to achieve a good result you need to look at all components: smart cities will only become a reality if every neighbourhood and every building is smart.