Rethinking our cities
With the worldwide urban sprawl occurring that is expected to cause populations in cities everywhere to surpass seven billion around 2050, along with overcrowded and crumbling infrastructure, it becomes even more urgent to bridge the gap between real estate development and sustainable mobility.
Family-Friendly downtown cores
Demographic change is transforming how people live in cities — downtown cores continue to expand, the number of single-person households is growing exponentially and drivers are proportionately fewer in number (an effect attributed to millennials). These neighbourhoods remain less attractive to families who typically prefer relocating to areas that are more suited to raising their children, as city centres have become unaffordable for the middle class, are less green and often lack resources centred on families. With these facts in mind, it is crucial that we rethink the way real estate is developed by focusing on mixed-use and integrated mobility
Pierre Romelaer, Professor Emeritus at the Université Paris-Dauphine, has studied the rapid and frequently spontaneous development of Chinese megacities in great detail. He explains that many of these cities are simply suburban bedroom communities, made up of a series of isolated residential buildings that require more and more roads to connect them to the economic areas to which workers must travel each day. “We tend to look at these neighbourhoods (businesses, popular, entertainment, or complete, meaning it integrates all services and uses) as separate entities of a certain “type”, with a main activity (or two), from which are derived these mobility needs,” explains Romelaer.
To better coordinate sustainable real estate and sustainable mobility, “real estate investors can be part of the solution,” believes Alain Dumaine, Senior Vice-President and Chief Risk Officer at Ivanhoé Cambridge. This can be done by simplifying the flow of residents in their communities through developing walkable public spaces, improving transportation planning or even by increasing density through mixed-use (areas that are at once residential and commercial). Further measures would be to prioritize mobility in the decision to invest, to anticipate the impact of autonomous and electric vehicles and prioritizing new markets like social housing.
In short, real estate development could benefit a wider range of citizens by integrating more diverse planning objectives. To do this, developers must identify the mobility needs of various adjacent neighbourhoods, as well as the unofficial solutions already in use such as carpooling, Uber, Lyft and Turo. More mobility-focused attention paid to development should lead to urban planning that is more human and more sustainable.