Cities of the Future

What trends will shape our towns and cities over the next decade?

Whilst some may question whether it is worthwhile or even possible to look at long-term trends right now, mixed-use developer Milligan commissioned forecast consultancy Trajectory to conduct research examining the growing Covid-induced phenomenon where people have a greater freedom to choose what they want to do, when they want to do it and how it is done. The report, titled The Deregulation of Life and Real Estate, uncovered five key trends.

First: the death of distance. As the world undergoes a mass trial of a work-from-home economy, a significant proportion of businesses are recognising the diminishing value of proximity –workers no longer need to be in a city-centre office in order to do their job effectively.

The declining importance of the office post-pandemic makes living further away more feasible in a digitally enabled world. Moves out of big cities and into market or satellite towns are much more likely, which could see a rise in the popularity of local communities outside of the now-popular big cities and a demand for the return of the local high street in many parts of the country.

Second: positive tech. Technology has always been the innovating force enabling us to work, live, and play better, and throughout the pandemic it has proven to be a lifeline for keeping people connected and allowing us to work from home. Almost everyone will have shopped, banked, joined an exercise class, a video call or a doctor’s appointment online for the first time this year and these are skills which are expected to stay.

Third: a play society. The quest for experience was already snowballing pre-pandemic and the pent-up  desire to go on a city break, try out the latest leisure concept or just being able to have a sit down meal outside of your own home is going to see create a huge resurgence when leisure and hospitality are allowed to reopen. The consumer’s ability to do so will be hindered in some ways by economic constraints but they will not lack motivation.

Fourth: decline of deference. People are eager to digest credible, factual information and will dismiss anything that does not hold up to scrutiny. Deference to politicians and business leaders is waning, but it will take longer to shake public trust in scientists and experts, which could lead to renewed faith in expertise and evidence led policy, and even more acceptance of change.

And finally: boardroom scrutiny. The world is becoming more socially conscious, and looking to point the finger and anyone and everyone who looks like they are not doing their part. Time is up for the days of questionable social and environmental ethics. Consumers want transparency and they want it now. Insecure employment and low pay are not new issues, but they these and other ethical issues, such as sustainability or environmental credentials, will come back into focus.

Milligan CEO John Milligan said whilst predictions such as these are subject to a changing world, they can point with confidence to the direction of travel, highlighting significant social trends that will shape the nature of our towns and cities, adding: “The current pandemic has reminded us that the world’s great challenges such as climate change, a fairer society or defeating a virus can only be solved by working in collaboration.”

This article was first published in the 21st January edition of Retail Destination Fortnightly

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