The Covid has killed our city centers. Long live our city centers. | Vince Bzdek | Premium
Cities, you may have heard, are toast.
So wrote a New York Times columnist at the height of the pandemic.
I read a lot of stories like this.
“Many of those who have left urban centers in the past year or so will probably never come back now that they’ve experienced the benefits of suburban living,” wrote Mike Bebernes, editor-in-chief of Yahoo.
“It’s a tough time for everyone,” said William Frey, demographer at the Brookings Institution think tank. “The real problem is: can these cities maintain their economic vitality?
I have heard executives, spokespersons and financial experts tell me that people will continue to work remotely even now that the pandemic is lifting, that they will definitely migrate to peri-urban areas, and in abundance. out of hard-won caution, they will continue to avoid congregating in large groups in major metropolitan centers around the world.
I think the recent throngs of merry downtown Denver revelers soaking up all the Star Week festivities are a testament to how much we have missed the joy of coming together – and the connections we make in our centers. -cities are essential to what it means to be human.
“It’s very exciting to see all of these visitors here and allow them to see downtown with fresh eyes,” said Tami Door, President and CEO of Downtown Denver Partnership. “It’s just a reminder why people love cities. We human beings thrive in civic centers and community.
It’s not just Denver. Colorado Springs is experiencing a downtown revival after the pandemic, with people filling dozens of new downtown apartments and hotels, and flocking to a revitalized urban core, a new downtown stadium, all-new playgrounds. restoration and a new Olympic museum.
In Denver and Colorado Springs, the pandemic and its endgame actually improved and increased engagement in downtown areas because, while this pandemic has taught us anything, it has reminded people how much they need to. … People.
“They need organic interactions on a daily basis with strangers they meet by simply saying hello, with a person they see every day working in the cafe when they have their coffee before going to work, with their colleagues who they explore new ideas when they come to the office, ”Door said. “They need that sense of community and they haven’t had it. “
I have also seen many reports that our cities will be forever changed because of COVID, that the pandemic has permanently reshaped the cityscape and offices.
To repeat: hogwash.
“I don’t think there will be a significant change in the way people view downtown Denver or other comparable, prosperous downtown cities,” Door told me.
“I mean, if you think of cities thousands of years ago, have they really changed? ” she asked. “The architecture has changed, the mode of transportation has changed, the way you communicate, whether it be through an ancient parchment or a cell phone, has changed, but it was always people who gathered in the square. city and shared ideas… and had spontaneous opportunity to engage with each other. “
Okay, but the job and the way we work together will definitely change forever, tipsters said.
I attended our first in-person staff meeting we’ve had in 15 months in the Downtown Denver Gazette newsroom last week, and the room was so full we had to find chairs additional. A 20-minute online meeting lasted two hours in person, and when we finally adjourned, no one left.
“There’s a lot of rhetoric that people are going to take big steps towards remote work and I don’t believe it,” Door said. “I’m completely against the grain on this. I believe there will be an acquired level of flexibility with improved technology. But none of this will replace the sense of belonging and community that businesses provide to human beings. “
I’ve heard a lot about hybrid working and improving productivity and all that, but what we haven’t talked about enough is how people enjoy being a part of something bigger. than them, and no matter how hard you try or how well something is structured or set up, you won’t get that in your basement at your desk on a video call. It will not arrive.
“I believe healthy office environments provide a strong, strong culture that supports people’s mental and physical health, it supports relationships and connections,” Door added.
So it seems that all these reports of city deaths have been greatly exaggerated.
This is because cities are not only vital for the life of our country, but also for our personal lives. They are engines of economic growth, hives of innovation, flywheels of sports, arts and culture, with a dynamic mix of people at the heart of them.
“Cities have a very rich history as epicenters of innovation, advancement, technology and inventions,” Door recalls. “And the reason is that you are exposed to all types of people, ideas and experiences, sights, sounds and smells and these converge in our brains. And when it’s over, that’s where the creativity comes from. We need our cities to thrive for humans to move forward. They need to be in places where they are energized, invigorated and stimulated.
“And that’s what our society is built on.
“This is what democracy is based on. “