A year ago. The city center is empty and very quiet. Shops, restaurants, bars, theaters, museums are closed and we work from home. We help each other where necessary and the feeling of safety, nourished by social control in the neighborhood, increases. More than ever, we are concerned with our health and make intensive use of the available outdoor space. Children tirelessly play outside and are given more freedom because there is little or no traffic on the street. We order everything we need online; web shops and distribution centers work overtime. We are also (almost) completely dependent on the internet for work and social contact. Our range has decreased significantly, roads and motorways are almost empty and there is little or no flying. An additional advantage: our CO2 emissions are considerably lower.
COVID has uncovered the soul of the city and shows the flaws from our primary needs. The most important need, namely the interaction that we experience by making use of the different functions that a city normally offers and to meet (outside) people is missing. And if we look it up, preferably in the neighborhood. This also contributes to efficiency. By (partial) loss of travel time, (working) days can be organized more efficiently, especially if you can also place orders online and have them delivered at home. The urge for further efficiency will only increase in the coming years in the digital age and the 24/7 economy in which we live. Awareness of the importance of health and well-being has continuously increased; we want space to move, be fit and be able to be outside (together). The need for homes with outdoor space, garden, roof terrace or balcony has increased and the pressure on green areas in the area is enormous. Partly because of this, the (parked) car is expressed in the city, which contributes to cleaner air and our health. The infrastructure is due for change because we move differently through the city. More space is needed for (green) places to stay in the open air and to provide space for pedestrians, runners and playing children. By using technology we can then gain insight into where it is busy, which terrace or shopping area is full, what the air quality is, what the most efficient route is and when it is best to travel.
An example of a city that seems to take these components fully into account in its Spatial Strategy 2040 is Utrecht. The city has thus set an important point on the horizon; In 20 years, everything must be close by "within 10 minutes", the pressure has been taken off the city center by easily accessible and multifunctional hubs with enough space in between for greenery and where energy is generated sustainably in this inclusive city. COVID has not brought new insights, it has revealed what we actually already knew.
Every month a column is published on a topic related to the value of the city. This vision is based on internal research and dialogue with internal and external stakeholders, in close collaboration with consultants and analysts from our Real Estate Strategy & Innovation team. More background can be found in our Insight: the city after COVID (in Dutch).