Creating the best places in a pandemic world

20 Aug 2020

At a time when all of mankind is impacted by COVID-19, technology is facilitating the new normal. The last six months have shown we can work, shop, study and function from the confines of our homes.

David Hutton

Managing Director, Development

Even as the largest global social experiment is ongoing – forcing much of the world’s population into isolation – the use of technology is also showing a positive correlation to the desire to re-connect in person. People don’t like being restricted and separated. We have an innate desire to socialise, whether at the workplace, entertainment venues, restaurants and public spaces in our cities. In a post pandemic world, when the risk of transmission is gone, strong vibrant cities will re-emerge.  

COVID-19 has however produced a stark warning for city planners and the real estate industry. Requirements for traditional space will, in part, be made redundant by technology. Malls that only provide functional shopfronts; offices that are no more than a box for desks; streets that only provide circulation; or business travel for meetings – can all be replaced by online systems and communication.         

As we slowly emerge from COVID-19, the market will see an accelerated distinction between “place” and “space”.  In a post-COVID-19 world, desirable places must be safe, inspiring and enable users to enhance their lives. They must add value and provide a positive experience. There is nothing new to this insight, however, COVID-19 has accelerated the widespread use of technology and helped us become accustomed to alternative ways to work, live and shop.  

There is now an increased focus on health and hygiene in all public and communal spaces. More employees will choose to work from home; businesses that are under cost pressure will vacate offices that do not provide employees and clients more than just “space”. If retailers can sell online and avoid the mall rent, or if CFOs can instruct their employees to stay home and save the cost of an office, they probably will.  

To re-establish confidence in a pandemic-aware world, “Creating the Best Places” will require enhanced solutions for health and wellbeing. Healthy workplaces and public realms will need to utilise smart technology, low contact design and thorough management procedures. This includes a human-centric approach. This new mindset will be required at every level, from cities, districts, buildings, public realm and the commuting systems linking them. COVID -19 has highlighted to us all the interdependencies and requirement for a holistic and consistent approach.    

Major market disruptions, irrespective of their triggers, are not new. Many people, organisations and assets have and will continue to be severely impacted by the pandemic and resultant economic hardship. A company’s ability to succeed, despite the inevitable market cycles and setbacks, is based on its vision, capital management and the progressiveness of its people. For pro-active companies, disruption and hardship can be springboards for innovation and growth.  COVID-19 has accelerated change and shaken the real estate sector. As we emerge from the pandemic and focus on rebuilding and recovery, the importance of “place” will be at the core of differentiating great projects, assets and cities. Users will have a much wider choice; occupiers will look beyond just space; owners and developers will have to provide more.  

Since the early 1960’s when Lendlease’s founder Dick Dusseldorp first spoke about urban renewal and social change, Lendlease’s culture has been built on improving urban outcomes. With 21 major urbanisation projects around the globe and over A$110bn in development pipeline, we take a long-term view. We look forward to working with city Governments, partners and the community to overcome the current pandemic, and to invest in creating the next generation of places highly desired by occupants, users and their community.