Fascinating piece in Axios about what is called "the 15-minute city," which "centers around the idea that residents can meet most of their daily needs by walking or bicycling a short distance - i.e., 15 to 20 minutes - from their homes."
The premise goes like this: "Strategically clustering food outlets, doctors' offices, schools, pharmacies, banks, smaller-scale offices and places for recreation in a close proximity to the people who need them can shrink the 'deserts' of essential services in distressed neighborhoods.
And making more services reachable by foot or bike will help address climate change."
It is not an entirely new concept. The story says that "Milan, Italy plans to guarantee essential services within walking distance for all residents, and the city is working with businesses to encourage telework." And Paris, France, "is embracing the 15-minute city concept by adding offices and 'coworking hubs' and encouraging remote work. The city is finding new uses for existing structures — using nightclubs as gyms during the day, and turning schools into parks and play spaces on weekends."
The dramatic shifts that have taken place because of the pandemic - like working from home or in remote locations as opposed to in a crowded central office - are seen as having the potential for making the concept of a "15-minute city" a lot more relevant "as companies also looking into smaller, more dispersed branch offices closer to where clusters of employees live.
"And with a massive reshuffling of retail, restaurant and office space underway, re-zoning for more flexible land use could be important for cities trying to recoup lost tax revenue."
- KC's View:
I've been thinking a lot about this kind of stuff lately, since the pandemic seems to have created a change in the broader urbanization that was taking place in the country. In just a matter of months, as people found cities to be constricting, making them more vulnerable to infection, they yearned for places with more sun and a little grass, and where, if they were going to be working from home, there was at least a little more space. (To work, to play, and, to be frank, take refuge to they won't kill each other.)
But I do think that this won't mean that the things that people liked about cities - convenience, accessibility to products and services and culture, with a strong technological backbone and infrastructure - suddenly will be irrelevant. Far from it. In many cases, the communities that can create semi-urban (which is different, I think, from suburban) centers that can provide this to residents will have themselves a real differential advantage.
It is a moving target, I'm guessing, because events seem to be unfolding at a pace hard to calculate or predict. But I'll be interested in seeing how these trends unfold, and how retailers embrace them with new formats and services keyed to the future, not the past.