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What will our cities look like in a post-pandemic world?

There is no doubt that our lives have changed dramatically since the advent of COVID-19. In parti...
Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

12.14 12 Dec 2020


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What will our cities look like...

What will our cities look like in a post-pandemic world?

Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

12.14 12 Dec 2020


Share this article


There is no doubt that our lives have changed dramatically since the advent of COVID-19.

In particular, our working practices have been completely altered since the arrival of the virus, with the majority of people working predominantly from home.

There has been speculation that many aspects of our lives will never be the same again post-pandemic.

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However, Conor Skehan, a lecturer in Planning at the Technical University of Dublin, thinks our cities, which were already changing, are now on the road to total transformation and that that’s nothing to be afraid of.

He believes that not just our capital city will be changed, but this will affect everywhere and the impacts will be "very rapid and very pronounced".

Mr Skehan told Down to Business with Bobby Kerr how the internet was already reshaping how we work and live, and that COVID-19 is bringing about further changes in an unconnected, albeit parallel, way.

He said: "I think it's going to be a little bit difficult at the moment to foresee those changes because there are two sets of changes happening at the same time that are parallel but not connected.

"COVID was like pouring petrol on a fire, it's making changes that were happening anyway change much more quickly.

He said this is similar to when cars and trucks were initially introduced in Ireland and changed the economic underpinnings of many towns and villages.

Mr Skehan explained: "All change is like this, while it's really uncomfortable and can be scary and terribly upsetting is as likely to be an opportunity as it is to be a problem."

'Dramatic' change to offices and retail

He said it is predicted that "big change is coming" with regard to commercial property prices and the demand for city centre retail space is will also be "dramatically" different.

He added: "The Debenhams of this world is just the tip of the iceberg of what's happening with those big types of stores that are being out-competed by internet shopping.

"Similarly, office working is going to change, it's not that there won't be offices but the use of offices will dramatically change and they'll become a meeting place and a touchpoint.

"A lot of people will work two or three days from home and that means the requirement for offices and the type of offices and the place of offices will change.

"I think the dissolution of the office is probably a premature prediction, I think people we need to continue to be able to operate as teams.

Mr Skehan said retail and office space typically define what we think of town or city centres and the price of those properties will fall.

That, in turn, will affect the value of land and investments which is "probably a pretty frightening prospect" for people who manage funds like pensions.

There is no doubt that property taxes will change too, he added.

What will our cities look like in a post-pandemic world?

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Tourism

This change to our city and town centres may then lead to a delayed return of tourism levels after the pandemic.

He said: "Tourism will be slow to take off, there's no doubt about it, but it's a different category.

"Tourism will definitely come back, we can see all over the world there's an incredible itch in people who have not been able to move.

"I can pretty much guarantee you that as soon as the restrictions either open or more clearly understood, the floodgates will open up."

Mr Skehan added that it "was not all bad" for the tourism industry as Irish people have rediscovered Ireland during the pandemic and have spent money in places they would never have visited before.

Main image: Grafton Street in Dublin city centre is seen on day one of a nationwide coronavirus lockdown in March. Picture by: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

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