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Coming to an Urban Center Near You

A new report from the Urban Land Institute (ULI), "What's Next? Real Estate in the New Economy," says a new economy will unfold over the course of this decade, "driven by an extraordinary convergence of demographic, financial, technological and environmental trends that will dramatically change urban planning, design and development."

The report outlines how every aspect of living, working and connecting will change in major ways, in large part by the values, preferences and work ethic of Generation Y, the largest generation in American history.

"What's Next compels us to rethink our approach to urban planning, design and development," said ULI CEO Patrick Phillips." Going forward, what and where we build will reflect changing consumer needs and preferences in livability, mobility, and flexibility."

"What's Next?" covers six categories:

-Work (employment drivers and markets);
-Live (housing demand and economics);
-Connect (how technology is changing people's desire for proximity to work, and the demand for retail, residential and commercial space);
-Renew (new sources of energy and demands for greater efficiency);
-Move (increasing demands for efficient transportation and ways to finance improvements);
-Invest (globalization and other factors affecting the availability of capital for residential and commercial real estate markets).

Among the report's findings:

Technology will reshape work places. Office tenants will decrease employee space, transforming offices more into meeting places, with an emphasis on conference rooms, break areas and open work areas. Developers will craft attractive environments to attract young, talented workers.

Major companies will continue to seek space in "global gateways" (areas served by a major international airport), or in 24-hour urban centers. Hard-to-reach suburban work places will be less in demand.

The influx of Generation Y, now in their teens through early thirties, will change housing demand. They are comfortable with smaller homes and will trade living space for an easier commute and better lifestyle, which will drive up the number of single households and prompt a surge in demand for rentals, causing rents to escalate.

For most people, finances will still be constrained, leading to more shared housing and multigenerational households. Immigration will support that trend.

The senior population will grow fastest, but financial constraints could limit demand for adult housing developments. Many will age in place or move in with relatives. Developers may want to recast retirement communities into amenity-laden "age-friendly" residences. Homes near hospitals and medical offices will be popular, especially if integrated into mixed-use neighborhoods.

Energy and infrastructure take on greater importance. Businesses cannot afford to have network connections down, so more will consider self-generated power or onsite generators. Developers, owners and investors are realizing slightly higher costs of energy and water-saving technologies can pay for themselves quickly. Ignoring sustainability issues speeds property obsolescence.

The full report is at

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May 19, 2019, 8:27 am PDT

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