What is Next for Urban Centres?
Nobody knows the future……
Not many predicted a worldwide pandemic, the global changes it would cause and the ways our behaviour would change. And it will be equally hard to know if this experience has changed our behaviour and will continue to impact how we live in the future or if we in the next while will revert to work, shop and socialise the same way as we did pre-pandemic….
During the last year we have spend the majority time of our lives in the areas where we are living, we have not been in our workplaces or been using public transport. This has meant that our local communities for many have become the neighbourhoods, villages and areas where we are living and urban centres became abandoned as retail went online and everyone stayed at home.
While there is some return to normality it is likely that shopping online and working remotely will remain attractive for many and that will mean great changes for urban centres and local communities.
Public realm such as pedestrianised areas, outdoor seating, parks and playgrounds have traditionally been mainly implemented in larger towns and urban areas, but as people refocus their lives closer to their homes a sense of local community will strengthen and a need to incorporate high quality public realm into local neighbourhoods and villages at a much higher rate.
We need to reconsider their future purpose of the larger urban centres. They have long before the pandemic been under pressure as edge of city retail parks and online shopping has made walking down car filled busy main street seem uninviting.
The town centres that are thriving now are the ones already offering high quality pedestrianisation and opportunities for the indoor and outdoor socialisation we have been devoid of the past year.
Restaurants, bars and café’s with outdoor seating have proved that they are an important part of the heart of local centres, they create character, atmosphere and ambience and belong in the town centres, they are what attracts people and make them thrive. Other opportunities for activities and socialisation including play centres and gyms and other venues will make up the new town centres.
The pandemic has reminded us that the hearts of our neighbourhoods, villages, towns and cities are places for us to meet.