How will Cities and High Streets change in a post-covid world?

11 May 2020

How cities survive post Covid-19 will change on multiple fronts; they’re likely to look and feel wildly different in the future.

Cities have long been the hubs of every country, defining where we live, where we work, how we travel, how we shop and how we entertain ourselves. Covid-19 will change the face of our cities forever if they’re going to remain successful, but how and what will they need to do differently; we asked our Group Strategy and Marketing Director, Gordon Neil for his view.

The role that cities play and how they deliver the needs of the post Covid-19 resident, worker and consumer means they’ll need to be very different. Many cities are also significantly supported by their ability to draw in tourists; with restricted travel, health, environment, and cash conscious tourists, all that changes as well. I’ve picked out 4 key areas that will change, why they’ll change and what cities will need to do, to be successful post Covid-19.

1. The skyscraper could be confined to the past, changing everything from the density of cities to the way buildings are financed

With social distancing in the construction industry and less density of people in buildings themselves, the skyscrapers that once towered over our cities could be consigned to the past forever, as they become more expensive to build, less efficient and able to generate less revenue. I doubt we’ve seen the end of tall buildings in our cities, but things will need to change from the way they’re financed to the ways they make money.

The days of buildings being financed by large businesses taking up prime space is likely to change, or at least the companies financing them will change. Mixed use buildings have been the way forward over the last few years and that’s likely to continue, but the mix of that space will have to change, focusing more on open spaces that draw people in and drive dwell time, in turn driving spend. The buildings of the future will also need to use technology to protect the health of those in them.

2. The walkable city could be the new reality, meaning existing cities need to think carefully about neighbourhood design

I’ve written in a previous piece about the post-covid consumer, that local will be better in the post-covid world. That view can be applied to cities as well, as neighbourhoods within cities become even more critical, as poeple seek to limit travel. City planners and businesses will need to think hyper local in design, creating neighbourhoods catering to every need of the people in them. This will be key to keeping people living in cities versus the attraction of moving to the suburbs in droves.

In reality, this means considering creating a feeling of less density through green spaces, smaller, more local schools, healthcare etc, and more selection in local retail and entertainment. This has the potential to offer up significant opportunities for business to succeed if they can capture the hearts and minds of the local community.

3. Transport connectivity will be more important than ever, a real challenge for some cities

Crowded underground, bus and train networks must be a thing of the past. Cities not only need to consider how they utilise smaller vehicles with less people and more space, they also need to reappraise the role of the car and other forms of personal transport.

Personal transport, which has long been the source of ire for city, regional and national government could be the key to connecting people to the public transport they require, keeping them safe in the process. Yes, that transport will need to be greener, but it has a role to play in the post-covid society.

4. Tourism decline changes cities for residents as well as the tourists themselves

A decline in tourism impacts and changes significantly more than we might think. For instance, in addition to the impact on hotels, it could mean no Airbnb, creating large amounts of empty spaces in housing areas, destroying communities. In certain cities, it could also have a devastating impact on public services, particularly transport, with less of the financing coming from tourists.

This serves as a warning for the gig economy, with the likes of Uber drivers reliant on tourism. This means bringing back tourism is key; to do this, cities will need to be clear about how they’ll protect traveller’s health and how they use open space to attract them. The density and gritty reality that used to be the draw in many cities will be less so going forward.

Join us through the rest of this week when we look at the impact of the changing face of cities on some key industries, including Food, Leisure, Entertainment and Workplace. Follow our LinkedIn page  to be kept up to date with our latest views



For more information on Gordon Neil, Strategy & Marketing Director, visit his LinkedIn page

city skyline

Get in touch

Talk to us to discover how to help your brand sell more.

Contact us