Cities must become denser to survive

Greg-Clark-THUMB.gifEXPO REAL: A new report by the Urban Land Institute in conjunction with TH Real Estate has urged cities and their leaders to become denser in order to thrive and survive.

The Density Dividend: Solutions for Growing and Shrinking Cities examined the performance of six cities at various stages of population change and concluded that if they do not take such an approach they “risk becoming locked into models of development that are inflexible, unattractive, unsustainable, and ultimately uncompetitive”.

Speaking at the report’s European launch at Expo Real in Munich today, its author Greg Clark outlined three ways populations can grow: allow sprawl of existing cities, build new cities or “densify” existing cities.

“When you look at the economics of these choices and the environmental consequences, social outcomes and financial costs the most efficient, most effective most sustainable way to go is the densification of existing cities,” he said.

If cities do not ask quickly to improve their density they risk becoming irrelevant to their populations and incapable of producing the economic and social drivers that make them desirable to live in.

“If we fail to do so it likely some cities will get locked into a level of decline that will leave them more like museum than vibrant urban spaces,” Clark said.

The six cities used as case studies were Birmingham, Dresden, Istanbul, London, Stockholm and Warsaw. Birmingham in particular was showing improved performance. Its density was defined as increasingly “high” and “good” in as far as it was ramping up the amount of housing and development within the city but in a sustainable and appropriate way for its population.

 “Birmingham showed one of the sharpest turns towards, good high density after many years of relative decline,” Clark said.

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