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10 city building predictions for 2016

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Few things are better than waking up in the mountains and seeing a notification on your phone that 9″ of fresh snow have fallen overnight, bringing the 48 hour snowfall total to 16″.

This is what people in mountain towns live for. They ski in the morning and then head to work in the afternoon. I heard a number of people on the mountain today saying that they, “want to be in the office after lunch.” It’s a lifestyle thing.

On that note, today I’d like to focus on 10 city building predictions for 2016. I’ve been assembling this list over the past few weeks and now that I have had my fill of Utah powder for the day, I’m dedicating the rest of the afternoon to writing.

These are never easy to put together. But here are my thoughts:

  1. We will see increased migration to secondary cities – outside of the alpha global cities – which offer a higher quality of life, more affordable housing, and the ability to live a particular lifestyle. This includes cities like Austin (creative startup hub) and Denver (outdoor recreation).
  2. As more and more cities wake up to the importance of lifestyle in attracting top talent, I think we will see a lot of cities follow the lead of Amsterdam and create “night mayors” or some other equivalent. These cities will begin to see nightlife as a competitive urban advantage.
  3. Global cities will start experimenting with different land use and property tax reform strategies to try and deal with rising income inequality and eroding housing affordability.
  4. We will see a barbell of residential unit sizes. We’ll see more well-designed small units as a way to try and promote housing affordability and we’ll see larger urban infill units for families and baby boomers who want to live/remain in walkable urban communities.
  5. In line with above, I think we will see a further rethinking of urban spaces. Flexible spaces, unique program mixes, and a continued blurring of public/private spaces. One example of this is the trend towards small private spaces surrounded by generous public/communal spaces.
  6. The Toronto and Vancouver real estate markets will continue to chug along because of low interest rates, a weak Canadian dollar, and increased foreign investment. That said, I think we will see more restraint when it comes to over-the-top luxury product.
  7. We will finally see a disruptive technology product that starts to get people in the real estate industry thinking that change is on the way. This will not be a product that ports an offline experience online; it will a new way of thinking about the industry.
  8. This will be the year that cities stop fighting Uber (and other similar marketplaces). Cities (and lobbyists) will finally accept that this is a new reality and then work to figure out the best way to create policy around it. Edmonton, Alberta has already become the first Canadian city to regulate Uber.
  9. Road pricing will get the attention it deserves in North America. Things will start out slow, but we will finally get ourselves on a path which recognizes that we can’t build our way out of traffic congestion in most major cities.
  10. I will publish a book on becoming a real estate developer.

Many city building trends and shifts seem to happen in a global way. But I think it’s worth noting that a lot of these predictions were likely written with my North American lens on, and in some cases my Toronto lens on.

It’s not easy sitting down and thinking about what will happen in the future. But it’s a worthwhile exercise. It forces you to take a stance and then, when the future does come, you can see how well you did. I saw Fred Wilson do this on his blog and I thought it was a great idea.

Now I would love to hear what you think about my predictions and what yours are for this year. Please let us know in the comment section below.

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