October 02, 2021  |  permalink

The National Association of Realtors’ C5 Summit

(The National Association of Realtors invited me to deliver the opening keynote of the inaugural C5 Summit, the association’s first event devoted expressly to commercial real estate rather than residential. Stacey Moncrieff’s recap from REALTOR Magazine is reposted below; thanks again to the organizers for having me.)

How will commercial real estate needs change in the next five to 10 years? How has the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the change? And what’s the implication for cities? Those questions were top of mind as the National Association of REALTORS®’ inaugural C5 Summit, a commercial real estate conference, kicked off Monday in New York.

Cities have a bright future, said Greg Lindsay, a senior fellow and director of applied research at the New Cities Foundation and Monday’s opening speaker, but the way residents live and work will undergo a radical transformation.

People take for granted that in the not-too-distant future, we’ll all be accepting deliveries from and riding around in autonomous vehicles. But what about autonomous buildings, which are essentially machines where goods, services, and amenities automatically come to you? That’s the future that Lindsay asked C5 attendees to think about. Research shows “Americans are ready for extreme automation,” Lindsay said.

To meet the demand, planners and developers are deconstructing spaces and rethinking them to combine housing, retail, industrial, office, and recreation. The vision for autonomous buildings includes these ideas:

• Food can be dispatched from nearby centralized kitchens.
• Retail and grocery delivery can deploy from micro-warehouses.
• Residents can eliminate their daily commute through companies’ adoption of cloud solutions, flexible workspaces, and coworking.

Retailers and developers are already putting such ideas into action, Lindsay said. He pointed to Hub 121 in fast-growing McKinney, Texas, as a development that turns traditional city planning on its head. Rather than restaurants and amenities springing up to serve area office workers, the developers started with multiple outdoor beer gardens and restaurants, surrounding them with flexible workspaces, Lindsay said.

Buildings that can integrate technology and adapt to consumers’ and companies’ changing needs will succeed. “He who controls the app and the delivery controls the experience,” Lindsay said.

Amazon Fresh, for example, opened its first grocery store in Woodland Hills, Calif., and quickly began using delivery data to change the store layout in real time. Lindsay said the company is bringing to life the concept of the “15-minute neighborhood”—a term coined by University of Paris Professor Carlos Moreno to indicate areas where residents can mostly bike, walk, work, and meet all their needs within a 15-minute radius. Moreno, who serves as a special envoy for smart cities to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, envisioned the concept as a way of reducing cities’ carbon footprint while improving residents’ quality of life. He has said he draws inspiration from the work of Jane Jacobs, author of 1961 classic “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.” Jacobs famously fought urban planning efforts of the 1950s and ’60s that facilitated the growth of car-dependent, suburban living.

Bustling Times Square, where the C5 conference is being held through Wednesday, served as the perfect backdrop for Lindsay’s C5 Summit remarks.

While the pandemic proved that office workers aren’t place-dependent, “superstar cities have retained their vitality,” Lindsay told C5 attendees. “Urban cores are stronger than ever, even if the real estate types within them are changing.”

To thrive, he said, cities need to rethink the public realm, focusing on how to beautify it, activate it, and turn it into something that’s more useful. “We can no longer think of cities as places where we stack people.”

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October 01, 2021  |  permalink

Fast Company Innovation Festival 2021

My old pals at Fast Company invited me to moderate a pair of panels at last week’s virtual Innovation Festival 2021. First up was “The Caring City,” starring Logitech’s Massimo Rapparini and Scott Wharton along with Siemens’ Rainer Karcher. Belying the title, the discussion was more focused on how virtual collaboration has aided Siemens’ urban practice rather than building more caring cities per se.

I was giddier to host “Accelerating Innovation,” (above) which featured Genpact CDO Sanjay Srivastava, Formula E Envision Virgin Racing managing director Sylvain Filippi, and honest-to-goodness motorsport champion Nick Cassidy, who politely ignored my geeking. (See if you can spot Niki Lauda’s The Art and Science of Grand Prix Driving behind me in the pixelated image above.)

Already looking forward to being asked to host again next year.

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September 20, 2021  |  permalink

CREtech Climate Presents: MOVE

My friends at CREtech invited me to host a Webinar with my even better friend (and FutureMap partner) Parag Khanna on the eve of his new book MOVE: The Forces Uprooting Us.

Click on the link above to watch the session on the CREtech+ video platform, or just read our 2013 op-ed for Reuters, “Where Will You Live in 2050?” that inspired his book. (Spoiler alert: Montréal in my case; Singapore in his.) The session description is below:

Tune in to our exclusive webinar celebrating the upcoming book launch of Dr. Parag Khanna’s MOVE: The Forces Uprooting Us. Greg Lindsay, Director of Applied Research at NewCities and CREtech Climate Leadership Board Member, will join Khanna to look at the forces, such as the climate crisis and disruptive technologies, that are producing the next mass migrations.

These two highly regarded futurists will help real estate professionals understand the deep trends that will have a profound impact on the future of the built world. Their expert views will enable industry leaders to understand, prepare for and adapt to the seismic forces that are going to result in the “new map of human geography”.

This webinar, like the book, will “prepare you for a complex future in which mobility is destiny.”

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September 15, 2021  |  permalink

Henley & Partners: The End of the End of Cities?

(Henley & Partners asked me to write a short essay accompanying the launch of their Best Residence-by-Investment Cities for Business Index, a ranking aimed at global nomads and the firms chasing them. Republished below.)

The ‘death of cities’ foretold at the onset of the pandemic was a false prophecy, of course, and not for the first time — but hopefully the last.

For decades, the end of urbanity has been where futurists’ predictions go to die. As far back as 1967, for example, Marshall McLuhan unflinchingly declared that after the advent of his electronic global village, “the circuited city of the future will not be the huge hunk of concentrated real estate”, but “an information megalopolis”. A decade later, Future Shock author Alvin Toffler envisioned working from an “electronic cottage” rather than the office.

Give each man his due — software is eating the world and remote work is here to stay — but the great scattering to a connected countryside hasn’t come to pass, not even after a year-and-a-half of lockdowns or worse. If anything, the opposite happened. The largest US cities all gained population over the last decade, according to newly published census figures collected during the pandemic. Elsewhere, European capitals sprang back to life this spring, while many of Asia’s megalopolises avoided quarantine altogether until the Delta variant came along. How did we ever believe cities might ‘die’?

Urban–rural tension is partly to blame for the ‘dying cities’ myth

The answer is at least as old as the Hanseatic League. The gap between cities and their hinterlands — to say nothing of central governments — has been a fraught one in the West since the decline of medieval city-states and the rise of modern nations. Their tensions and resentments periodically erupt in one asserting its cultural dominance over the other. Or as the sociologist Richard Florida told me bluntly last winter, “Americans don’t like cities, and every time there’s a crisis they start screaming about the death of them.” (See also: Brexit.)

This gap can become a chasm into which every migrant — no matter how high or low their net worth — risks falling. Because international migration is overwhelmingly urban. As I have written previously, the pandemic-era population declines seen in global capitals was less a consequence of residents fleeing than the disappearance of new migrants to replace them.

Open migration policy, happy city

The health and wealth of cities, then, is inextricably bound to the migration and security policies of their federal governments — as New York, London, and Hong Kong have all recently discovered to their lasting regret. It’s no coincidence, for example, that London Mayor Sadiq Khan greeted Brexit with an unrealized proposal for the city’s own immigration scheme, although UK chancellor Rishi Sunak has been more obliging in winning a global tax exemption for the city’s biggest banks.

The new Best Residence-by-Investment Cities for Business Index highlights the risks of cities falling out of sync with their hosts. But it also underscores the opportunities of more tightly aligning urban-and-national migration programs to win the post-pandemic competition for talent in a world upended by remote and stark failures of governance all around. Along these lines, several cities (and city clusters) stand out:

London and New York. Shocking to anyone who seriously entertained the ‘death of cities’ and utterly unsurprising to anyone else, the world’s twin financial capitals top the list. Scoring high across the board in quality-of-life factors — including runaway scores in education (along with Los Angeles) — the duo’s performance underscores their centrality in global flows of talent and migration. They aren’t about to be disrupted by sunny tax havens any time soon. (New York City’s population in particular has surged to an all-time high of 8.8 million, surprising demographers who had estimated tens of thousands of departures.)

Sydney, Singapore, and Auckland. In pre-Covid times, this trio of Asia-Pacific capitals would score highly on nearly any cities index due to their various combinations of security, stability, and competent governance. But those qualities have become perverse liabilities more than a year into the pandemic, as early successes with ‘zero Covid’ policies have crumbled under the mental strain of repeated lockdowns and the highly infectious Delta variant. They’ve proven they can close themselves off from the world, but can they reopen? Singapore and New Zealand are taking tentative steps in that direction, but Sydney appears to have disappeared off the global radar until 2022.

Dubai. After losing nearly a tenth of its population early in the pandemic due to guest worker repatriation, Dubai corrected course through close coordination with Abu Dhabi and its fellow emirates. The city emerged from lockdown late last year as a freewheeling refuge for Europeans fleeing lockdowns, and a national joint venture with Sinopharm to manufacture vaccines locally has helped propel the UAE to the world’s highest vaccination rates. On top of that, Dubai liberalized citizenship and introduced a remote work visa earlier this year, finally taking steps to untether foreign residents from their employers. The triumph of the ‘Dubai model’ can be seen in its impact on projects such as Saudi Arabia’s NEOM — a city being built from scratch with its own courts and immigration system.

Hong Kong. A year after instituting the sweeping national security law that all but heralded the end of “one country, two systems”, the pandemic may be all that’s holding back an exodus. In January, the UK began offering a clear pathway to citizenship for more than 3 million eligible residents, and as of March, more than 34,000 had applied. London is already angling to attract an outsized share of wealthy residents to cement its post-Brexit status, while Vancouver and Toronto are also poised to win more than their fair share of emigrants. Hong Kong isn’t the only city on the list endangered by nationalism — Barcelona also faces difficulties navigating Catalonia’s aspiring independence.

In each case, the ‘death’ and life of great global cities increasingly depends on the willingness of their governments to (re)open borders, promise stability, and welcome migrants. In a world gradually pivoting from the pandemic to what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts will be several decades of mounting climate disasters, safe harbors will be at premium. Let’s hope this marks the end of ‘the end of cities’. We will need them more than ever.

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September 11, 2021  |  permalink

Tirana Design Week 2021

After being grounded for 18 months, my travel schedule resumes in earnest with the opening keynote at Tirana Design Week on October 2nd, where they’re asking the big questions:

Will the next crisis find us as unprepared as in COVID-19, repeating the same findings over and over again? Or, will we search for how to reinvent our commons city space, streets, public space, parks and green areas, urban furniture, landscapes, leisure areas, commercial zones, and residences? Will socio-ecological interactions within the city change and what does this mean for human behaviour versus urban space or city’s carrying capacity? Are physical and social distancing there to remain, and if so, how are we to prevent collective “agoraphobia” or any form of “social phobia” from taking place in the future? The future is so uncertain right now, but there is no doubt that health and wellbeing will not only persist, but will also grow in importance in city-making.

Conference aside, I’m excited to visit Tirana just to see the transformation of the public realm under Mayor Erion Veliaj, who I invited to speak at reSITE in 2018. (Don’t take my word for it; ask The Economist.) From Tirana, it’s on to Venice to finally see my station at the Architecture Biennale, and then onto Turin for Utopian Hours. I hope to see you somewhere along the way!

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September 09, 2021  |  permalink

New Paradigms for Greenfield Cities of the Future

The 21st century could well be the time when the very concept of a city is re-examined and reworked. Profound changes in climate are already forcing us to think about new cities that could replace, for example, low-lying coastal megacities like Lagos, Jakarta and, tomorrow perhaps, Miami. Other cities may be rendered completely unliveable because of heat or lack of water. Never have we needed human ingenuity and innovation more than now.

The 2021 Greenfield Cities Alliance Dialogues will tackle these trends, identify pressing challenges, and showcase innovative solutions. The first webinar on August 25th (watch above) set the stage for the series, examining how master-planning new cities is changing in the wake of these interconnected trends.

The second, invitation-only event will be held in person on September 23rd in New York City, in conjunction with our partners at the Cornell Tech Urban Tech Hub. Please register here for an invitation.

Sarah Moser, Associate Professor, Department of Geography, McGill University
Anthony Townsend, Urbanist-in-Residence, Cornell Tech
Peter Terium, Managing Director of Energy, Water, and Food, NEOM
Gökçe Günel, author of “Spaceship in the Desert: Energy, Climate Change and Urban Design in Abu Dhabi”
Greg Lindsay, Director of Applied Research, NewCities

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August 07, 2021  |  permalink

Live from Atlanta: The Intersection

On July 29, Atlanta’s Council for Quality Growth hosted its first annual THE INTERSECTION conference at The Gathering Spot ATL. Needless to say, I was thrilled to be back on stage for the first time since the pandemic. Photos from the event are above and below; a full-length video is here, beginning with my opening keynote, and followed by keynotes by Zonda’s Ali Wolf at 24:30 and Secondmuse’s Chante Harris at 1:39:00. A full-length description follows:

This year’s theme - “Innovate or Die: Technology is Disrupting the Development Industry” - discussed critical issues affecting metro Atlanta and the industry as a whole, technology trends and which ones will last, and how development is being impacted by the change that resulted from the pandemic.

Change is happening at the intersection of technology and development, and The INTERSECTION convened experts from across the industry to share their knowledge on how Atlanta can best adapt moving forward.

The half-day conference featured international speakers, including Greg Lindsay, NewCities’ Director of Applied Research, who delivered the first keynote, setting up and moderating the discussion that followed. Other keynote speakers were Zonda’s Ali Wolf and SecondMuse’s Chante Harris.

Panelists were Julie Seitz (Gensler), Conor Sen (Bloomberg Opinion), T. Dallas Smith (T. Dallas Smith & Company), Lawrence Gellerstedt IV (Southsource Advisors), Nathaniel Horadam (Center for Transportation and the Environment), and Pramod “KP” Reddy (Shadow Ventures)

This real estate and development conference will be held annually, adapting the subject matter to the real time issues affecting our industry.

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July 29, 2021  |  permalink

The CREtech Climate Podcast: How Cities are Responding to Climate Change

The folks at CREtech Climate have launched a podcast! Founder and host Michael Beckerman (the biggest mensch in the business) had me on to talk cities, climate migration, and more. Here’s the official description:

Greg Lindsay, the Director of Applied Research at NewCities dives into top issues that urban leaders are facing today and how those leaders are addressing them. Lindsey also addresses the state of cities today and how cities across the globe are starting to think more holistically about the impacts of climate change.”

Listen at the embedded player above or download on Apple Podcasts.

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July 22, 2021  |  permalink

The American Council on Germany: Is Infrastructure the Answer?

President Biden has proposed a $2 trillion infrastructure plan that he states will upgrade roads, bridges, and water systems, expand digital access and broadband, hasten a shift to clean energy, and create millions of jobs. The EU’s $800 billion Recovery Fund also focuses on addressing climate change and the digital transformation as part of its economic recovery plan.

On July 21, the ACG and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung hosted discussion on infrastructure with Greg Lindsay, Director of Applied Research, NewCities, and Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council’s Foresight, Strategy, and Risks Initiative; Brandie Lockett (2018 ACG Sustainable Urban Development), City Designer, Houston Public Works, City of Houston; and Thomas Puls, Senior Economist for Transportation and Infrastructure, Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft; and moderated by Dr. Steven E. Sokol, President, American Council on Germany.

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July 15, 2021  |  permalink

Council for Quality Growth: The Intersection, July 29

The good folks at Atlanta’s Council for Quality Growth have invited me to curate, keynote, and host a new conference on the intersection of technology and post-pandemic trends titled, fittingly enough, The Intersection. The full program is below. If you happen to be in Atlanta on July 29, I hope you’ll join us for an amazing program also featuring Zonda’s Ali Wolf, Secondmuse’s Chante Harris, and many more. Ping me for details.

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Greg Lindsay is a generalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is the chief communications officer at Climate Alpha, the senior fellow for applied research and foresight at NewCities, a senior fellow of MIT’s Future Urban Collectives Lab, and a non-resident senior fellow of The Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Strategy Initiative.

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Articles by Greg Lindsay

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Why Companies Are Creating Their Own Coworking Spaces

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The Engine Room

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Now Arriving: A Connected Mobility Roadmap for Public Transport

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Why Every Business Should Start in a Co-Working Space

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Can the World’s Worst Traffic Problem Be Solved?

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Hacking The City

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