Submitted by Joe Geller, Vice President (Boston, MA)
This blog entry is the first in a series of posts focused on urban development and the challenges facing today’s cities. To come: how the City of Vancouver, BC is planning its future, and how cities can attract the “creative class” to the urban core.
The Urban Land Institute (ULI) session, entitled “What’s Next: Trends in Real Estate,” presented a number of statistics that seem to be in conflict with the expansive development happening in Boston’s suburbs. Some of the more interesting statistics:
- 20- and 30-somethings are more interested in living downtown and will settle for smaller units as they consider the urban core their living room (something a recent Boston Globe article confirms). They are looking for a truly urban live/work/play environment
- The central business district (CBD) or urban core ranks higher for investment potential among global investors than suburban markets
- The average age of people getting married in Boston is 34
- Income as it relates to buying power has fallen for those in the 20-30, 30-40 and 40-50 age groups, meaning Generation X and Y will likely not have the financial resources to choose to send their children to private school if they live in the city
- The number of children living in Boston is decreasing (a statistic apparently not shared in most North American peer cities)
- Online retail sales are expected to jump from $200 billion in 2012 to $500 billion by 2020
- ULI District Council surveys indicated that the most challenging issue for future development is transportation
- In a real-time survey of attendees at the session, 86% believed that the CBD and adjacent suburbs would see the most productive development in the next 3-5 years and only 10% believed it would occur outside that area in the route 128 (I-95) suburbs
|Reservoir Woods, a corporate campus along|
Route 128 in Waltham, MA
Now thinking I understand where development is going in Boston, I was surprised about what I heard at a NAIOP session about the Boston suburbs. Burlington and Waltham along Route 128 in Massachusetts were developed with traditional office/industrial parks lining the highway at each exit, supported by regional malls and suburban retail and traditional subdivisions of single-family homes and multi-family developments. Those traditional office park developments are now being replaced with neo-urban development focused on creating a work environment that creates collaboration, flexibility and potential for growth while providing a play environment with a variety of residential options, eating establishments, movie theaters, bowling alleys and the like. Four projects were described in detail and four more were discussed as moving forward or in the planning stages. All of these developments were described as being attractive to the Millennials and high tech workers.
|Will today's city dwellers want to raise|
their kids in the city?
There is clearly a belief in the design and development community that both urban and suburban development needs to be focused on creating walkable, vibrant communities that provide a myriad of social and professional experiences. It will be interesting to see how this focus evolves in the urban and suburban context over the next 20 years. As a landscape architect and planner—particularly here in Boston—it is certainly an exciting time to be a part of the process.