Personalized City


2016 FORECAST: In 2016, growth trends for The Personalized City strengthen. It is defined by smaller living spaces augmented by innovative transportation, as well as entertainment and services networks that tie residents and their activities closely together to meet personal wants and community needs. In effect, the city becomes their living room, kitchen, playroom and more. It attracts aging boomers, who want old Main Street conveniences, to 20-somethings, who, with nothing more than an idea and a smartphone, can scratch out a living delivering dry cleaning or takeout food to the upwardly mobile who have more money than time. The Personalized City that fulfills personal needs will experience a real estate boom even in an economic downturn.

However, as micro-apartment complexes rise and tech-savvy entrepreneurs reshape the urban economy, the low-skilled working poor are being pushed out of city centers to suburbs. This fortifies the traditional pattern in Europe, reverses a century of suburban escape in the US, and dispatches the poor to areas where public and social services are unprepared to meet their needs.

In 2016, the trend of cities throughout the developed world to accommodate the young, old, needy and time-pressed will create even more new businesses and new markets as part of an urban and ex-urban renaissance. While The Personalized City will create a wide range of opportunities, too much of a good thing will bring too many people to cities that cannot accommodate the heavy influx.

trend Update

According to the report Foot Traffic Ahead: 2016 from the nonprofit Smart Growth America, for the first time in 60 years, walkable urban areas are gaining greater residential market share than suburbs. These areas also command rent premiums ranging from 91 percent for office space to 66 percent for apartments. Real estate developers and investors are recognizing that mixed-use development and pedestrian-friendly urban neighborhoods are good business.

Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood — called “the most dangerous neighborhood in America” in 2009 — illustrates the trend. The city’s major corporations funded a nonprofit development initiative that put tens of millions of dollars into rescuing the district by preserving historic buildings, creating walkable areas, renovating a park and enticing start-up businesses. Now Over-the-Rhine has gone from the city’s most dangerous to trendiest, with craft breweries, standing-room-only eateries and condos selling for $500,000.

Still, the renaissance hasn’t elevated the district’s poor, which, as in many cities, are still migrating outward. Poverty in American suburbs is growing at a rate about twice as fast as in its cities. Suburbs are beginning to respond, with initiatives such as a housing co-op in suburban Chicago, networked social- service agencies in Montgomery County, Maryland, and a project to improve educational results for poor children in the towns of South King County, Washington.     TJ  

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