The Future of Cities is Accessible Quality of Place

Technological disruption, public health scares, and pushback against systemic disparities have all elevated the importance of and demand for quality places in urban settings. At a time when technology and infrastructure have enabled people and businesses to locate anywhere and collaborate virtually, city and regional leaders increasingly need to evaluate, refine, and in some cases redefine the value proposition that places offer residents.

The concept of quality of place—including but not limited to walkability, transportation assets, cultural amenities, job opportunities, educational resources, open space and recreation—is not a new concept in discussions around economic competitiveness and resident/business attraction and retention. But it is often centered around placemaking strategies, and has been discussed for the last couple of decades at least, as a way to attract the creative class to a region.

In 2022, it is imperative to view investments in quality of place more broadly as the qualities and characteristics that people value in where they chose to live have shifted:

  • The shifting norms in virtual/remote work have accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • The increasing spotlight on diversity and inclusion requires cities to be more intentional and equity-focused in their growth strategies.

In a distributed world where workers can live and work anywhere, the very value proposition of cities as a place where diverse groups can come together at scale to learn, create, and recreate is at stake. That means that quality places will need to equitably advance accessibility, promote wellness, and foster innovation.

Answering key questions around quality of place will be crucial for cities to understand what makes a place attractive and inclusive for all people. On our minds are the following research topics:

  1. What kinds of metrics best indicate that a community or region is competitive in attracting and retaining residents?
  2. In which places are leaders addressing equity and inclusion in their planning and policy making?
  3. What typologies of quality of place exist across US communities?
  4. How are cities, community-based organizations, and the private sector currently cultivating quality places through their policies, placemaking activities, and investments in real estate and infrastructure?
  5. What key investments in people, place, and services can cities make to enhance their value proposition to residents, businesses, and visitors?

The future success of cities will rely on intentional, strategic investments and planning in infrastructure, resources, and people in ways that make cities places of choice and opportunity for all its residents. ESI is excited to take on these important research topics and look forward to developing a playbook for cities and regions to value and decide on the quality of place investments that make sense for their communities. Learn more about ESI Center for the Future of Cities and stay tuned.

Gina Lavery, Senior VicePresident and Principal | [email protected]

Ms. Lavery has led a range of projects for ESI primarily focused on urban planning, real estate, transportation—particularly where these areas intersect with economic development.

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