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THE NEW NORMAL

Steve Nygren says future communities will be designed for our post-Covid needs

Courtesy Steve Nygren

It took a global pandemic and stay-at-home orders for 1.5 billion people worldwide, but something is finally occurring to us: The future we thought we expected may not be the one we get.

We know that things will change; how they’ll change is a mystery. To envision a future altered by coronavirus, Quartz asked dozens of experts for their best predictions on how the world will be different in five years.

Below is an answer from Steve Nygren, the founder and CEO of Serenbe, a community designed to preserve green space outside Atlanta, Georgia.

In five years’ time, all industries that touch on the built environment—from housing and commercial to landscape and public spaces—must cater to the post-pandemic lifestyle needs of Americans or risk becoming obsolete. Dominated by the mainstreaming of remote work and the migration of city-dwellers from major urban centers to less crowded places, the real estate industry in particular will trend toward the building of walkable, mixed-use developments in rural and suburban areas of the US and away from sky rise apartment living in heavily-populated cities.

Sheltering in place has led a lot of Americans, across generations, to reevaluate the communities in which they choose to live. No longer tied to an office, more people have the freedom to live wherever they’d like. Recent research suggests this increased flexibility will lead consumers to demand more outdoor space and quiet neighborhoods with access to urban and health-focused amenities, from grocery stores and pharmacies, to organic farms built into neighborhoods. Right now, modern development is failing to meet these needs at a large scale.

Be prepared to see entirely new planned communities pop up that are built with the intention of balancing the demand for open space with the need for urban amenities—think small-town living with big-city perks—and a resurgence of some of the standard elements we’ve “engineered out” of communities over the last 70 years, largely due to the rise of the automobile. Elements of communities that used to be “givens” and have connected past generations with their neighbors now seem hard to come by in today’s cookie cutter subdivisions. Think front porches pulled close to the curb for increased sociability while keeping a safe distance; wide, walkable sidewalks in close proximity to restaurants, grocery stores, and local shops; and easy access to trails, parks, and nature. The neighborhood of the future will be focused on connecting people to each other and nature in a safe and healthy way.

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