Listed here are some ways in which COVID is remodeling cities all over the place | Enterprise and Economic system Information
The coronavirus has changed many aspects of life in cities around the world, especially as large numbers of employees are choosing to work from home and avoid public transport – shifts that urban experts say are likely to last.
This will have a huge impact on city centers and central business districts (CBD) which have typically been the economic centers and main sources of income for cities.
What is the future of city centers and CBDs and how will cities adapt? Here are some views.
Mono for mixed use
The South Korean government has announced that it will buy empty hotels and offices and convert them into residential buildings, while Singapore is promoting the redevelopment of old offices and parking lots in its business district.
The UK government has also eased planning rules to make it easier to move from business to residential.
The UK is among those countries that have made it easier to convert businesses into apartments [File: Hannah McKay/Reuters]“CBDs are essentially not resilient as they are only used once. They were designed for a massive influx of people in the morning and for departure in the evening, ”said Chintan Raveshia, head of urban planning and design at consultancy Arup.
A push for more mixed-use developments in CBDs is the way forward, with high-tech manufacturing and urban farms, as well as luxury and affordable housing, among other things.
“CBDs can then attract a mix of residents, including families, who can help build a community and identity that CBDs currently generally lack,” he said.
With an increased focus on health and hygiene, cities will push for WELL certification, a global set of building standards for wellbeing through improved air quality, water, light and greater comfort, said Matthew Tribe, managing director of CallisonRTKL architecture firm in Dubai.
“In the Middle East, for example, a lot of buildings have been redesigned and now there is an opportunity for … smart tech and nano-tech to improve the materials and performance of the building for a better quality of life,” he said.
Dip for public transport
The use of public transport decreased worldwide as people worked from home and avoided closed spaces. In the City of London, the use of public transport was 71 percent below the value before COVID in mid-December, according to the Google Mobility Report.
In Sydney, public transport use fell by about a third, while in New Delhi it fell by 43 percent, the data showed.
“The excitement for public transportation may not fully recover,” said Tony Mathews, lecturer in urban and environmental planning at Griffith University, Australia.
Public transport use in New Delhi, India is 43 percent below pre-COVID levels, according to Google Mobility [File: Adnan Abidi/Reuters]”There may be fewer workers in the cities as some will continue to work from home, further reducing the demand for public transportation,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
As residents engaged in cycling, hiking, and mobility vehicles, authorities from Jakarta to Bogota added bicycle lanes, blocked roads for cars, and rebuilt parking lots.
“The downside is that several people have chosen to use personal transportation,” said Jaya Dhindaw, director of integrated urban planning at the World Resources Institute in India.
“The upside is that a significant portion of that personal transportation includes bicycles and other active mobility solutions,” she said.
Public spaces and parks in or near CBDs are experiencing a revitalization as these spaces have become islands of relief for local residents looking to get some exercise and fresh air.
Public spaces like this park in Quebec, Canada are likely to become increasingly popular, according to city planners [File: Christinne Muschi/Bloomberg]”City authorities and citizens alike have gained 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 Dhindaw.
“That makes me optimistic that the authorities will pay more attention to providing more such spaces in cities.”
With main roads and CBDs drained from San Francisco to Sydney, so-called donut cities have sprung up, with abandoned city centers and thriving suburbs.
“We saw the trend of suburbanization and the rise in satellite CDBs in peripheral areas even before COVID-19, as more jobs moved to the suburbs,” said Dhindaw of WRI.
“This might just be the opportunity for guidelines and practices that will lead to a new understanding of the CBD,” she said.
More and more people are leaving the city centers during the pandemic [File: Thilo Schmuelgen/Reuters]Mini-CBDs will emerge in different areas of the city, Arup’s Ravupia said, with an increase in remote work centers in the suburbs, as well as more collaborative spaces and informal communal spaces for people to gather together.
Authorities also need to consider where new urban populations might come from when large numbers of workers leave cities, Matthews said.
“Building new urban communities can be done through improved urban design, leases and reduced business rates,” he said.
The Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo is aiming for the “quarter of an hour city”, in which most of the daily needs can be reached within 15 minutes on foot, by bike or by public transport in order to reduce traffic jams and environmental pollution and improve the quality of life.
The concept is becoming more widespread as residents prefer to stay on site. Planners need to reconfigure the streets to focus on pedestrian needs and view the sidewalks as important spaces for walkability and mobility, the CallisonRTKL tribe said.
“It will lead to a changed cityscape that is not only more resilient to future crises, but also more inclusive and aimed at those who live in it,” he said.