The coronavirus has disrupted many aspects of life in cities around the world, especially as large numbers of white-collar workers choose to work from home and avoid public transport – shifts that are likely to last, according to urban experts.
This will have a huge effect on city centers and Central Business Districts (CBD) which have traditionally been the economic hubs and main income generators for cities.
What is the future of city centers and CBDs and how will cities adapt? Here are some views.
Mixed use mono
The South Korean government has announced that it will buy empty hotels and offices and convert them into residences, while Singapore is pushing for the redevelopment of old offices and parking lots in its CBD.
The UK government has also relaxed town planning regulations to allow for easier conversion of stores to residential use.
“CBDs are essentially non-resilient because they are single-use. They were designed for a massive influx of people in the morning and leaving in the evening, ”said Chintan Raveshia, city planning and design manager at consultancy Arup.
An effort for more mixed-use developments in CBD is the way forward, he said, including with high-tech manufacturing and urban farms as well as luxury and affordable housing.
“CBD can then attract a mix of residents, including families, who can help build a community and identity that CBD typically lacks,” he said.
“ Good ” buildings
With an increased focus on health and hygiene, cities will push for WELL certification, a global set of building standards for well-being through better air, water, more light and more comfort, said Matthew Tribe, executive director of Dubai-based architecture firm CallisonRTKL.
“In the Middle East, for example, many buildings have been oversized, and now there is an opportunity for… smart technologies and nanotechnologies to improve building materials and performance and, as a result, create better quality. of life. ,” he said.
The use of public transport around the world declined as people worked from home and avoided confined spaces. In the city of London, public transport use was down 71% from pre-COVID levels, according to data from Google Mobility Report in mid-December.
In Sydney, the use of public transport fell by about a third, while in New Delhi it fell by 43%, the data showed.
“The enthusiasm for public transport may not fully recover,” said Tony Mathews, senior lecturer in urban and environmental planning at Griffith University in Australia.
“There may be fewer workers in cities because some will continue to work from home, which will further reduce the demand for public transport,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
As residents switched to bicycles, walking and personal mobility vehicles, authorities from Jakarta to Bogota added bicycle lanes, closed streets to cars and converted parking spaces.
“The downside is that many people have opted for personal modes of transportation,” said Jaya Dhindaw, director of integrated urban planning at the World Resources Institute in India.
“The advantage is that a significant number of this mode of personal transport includes cycles and other active mobility solutions,” she said.
Public spaces and parks in or near the CBD are experiencing a revival as these spaces have become islands of relief for residents wishing to venture out to exercise and take in the fresh air.
“Municipal authorities and citizens have acquired a new appreciation for parks and public spaces, and the importance of improving the quality and quantity of open spaces, and improving access to them,” said said Dhindaw.
“It makes me optimistic that civic authorities will pay more attention to providing more such spaces in cities.”
With the shopping streets and CBDs emptied from San Francisco to Sydney, so-called donut cities have emerged, with abandoned city centers and thriving suburbs.
“We were already seeing the trend towards the suburbs and the increase in satellite CBDs in outlying areas before COVID-19, as more jobs moved to the suburbs,” WRI’s Dhindaw said.
“This just might be the opportunity for policies and practices that lead to a new imagination of CBD,” she said.
Mini-CBDs will emerge in different parts of the city, Raveshia d’Arup said, with an increase in remote work centers in the suburbs, as well as more collaborative workspaces and informal community spaces where people can. to gather.
Authorities will also need to think about where new urban populations are coming from if large numbers of workers leave cities, Matthews said.
“The construction of new urban communities can be done through improved urban design, rental agreements, reduced commercial rates,” he said.
Towns 15 minutes away
The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, is targeting the “city of the quarter hour”, where most daily needs are within 15 minutes on foot, by bike or by public transport, to reduce traffic jams and pollution and improve traffic. quality of life.
The concept will be adopted more widely as residents prefer to stay local, with planners having to reconfigure streets to focus on the needs of pedestrians and see sidewalks as vital spaces for walking and mobility, the CallisonRTKL tribe said.
“The result will be a changed urban landscape that will not only be more resilient to future crises, but will also be more inclusive, designed around those who live there,” he said.