The changing cityscape

20th January 2021

By Will Leyland

A new year is now on the horizon and the country is full of hope for the coming days and months. This is thanks to the government’s vaccination programme ramping up impressively across the UK with the target of vaccinating 2 million per week before the end of January.

Whatever your opinion is of the past 12 months and the government’s part in it, we can presumably agree that the vaccine rollout has been an impressive achievement so far and gives us the tools to get the UK economy back on track.

That being said we all know that things are very unlikely to simply return to the way they were before, either in our daily lives or our work and leisure time.

The work force was compelled, almost overnight, to completely relocate themselves to be able to work from home, remotely or in completely different circumstances than before with a host of regulations and health and safety requirements that may not previously have been required.

This in itself has meant a huge relocation of workers from busy city centres to their homes, either across the city or back into the commuter towns that accommodate them.

That change is likely to mean a fairly significant realignment of what city centres look like and what they’re used for, but what is that change likely to look like?

City retail

In short, 2020 was an absolutely dreadful year for retail with a number of high profile chains such as Arcadia going into administration and effectively clearing out huge swathes of commercial properties in city centres.

If these busy shopping hubs are seeing those shops vacate the space in such a short space of time what’s likely to fill the void?

It’s possible, of course, that other shops and retail chains could take up that space, but it seems increasingly unlikely that this will happen at scale. 2020 meant that a huge number of customers became accustomed to shopping online not just for clothes but also for food, groceries and household items too.

If retail space is unlikely to remain as such, then it seems likely that they will be taken over by more artisan or experience-related businesses that offer something that is a one off.

Given that 2021 is a new lease of freedom for many it’s easy to foresee that experiences, eating out and unique products will become much more popular.

Residential property

There have been many that have wondered whether swathes of people will vacate the cities in pursuit of a more rural living experience but given that the average age of city dwellers is relatively young it seems unlikely that this will happen.

If anything, many of the larger retail spaces vacated by businesses that didn’t survive the last 12 months could become residential property for those who want a renewed city experience.

It’s likely that city centres may have a shift of focus away from purely business or work premises. Don’t be surprised to see much more green space in city centres as well as bars, restaurants and experience businesses.

The reasons that people want to live in cities is unlikely to change significantly. People still want to live in plush apartments in busy, bustling and social city centres but are they likely to continue to be the sole area of work? Probably not, residential property and pleasure are likely to take precedence.

With that in mind, commuter towns and city centres won’t see any sort of drop in demand from tenants, private renters or young workers. Instead, the demand will remain strong along with yields for landlords and capital appreciation, but the reason for moving into the city is likely to become much more focused on experience and socialising.

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The changing cityscape

20 January 2021

A new year is now on the horizon and the country is full of hope for the coming days and months. This is thanks to the government’s vaccination programme ramping up impressively across the UK with the target of vaccinating 2 million per week before the end of January.

Whatever your opinion is of the past 12 months and the government’s part in it, we can presumably agree that the vaccine rollout has been an impressive achievement so far and gives us the tools to get the UK economy back on track.

That being said we all know that things are very unlikely to simply return to the way they were before, either in our daily lives or our work and leisure time.

The work force was compelled, almost overnight, to completely relocate themselves to be able to work from home, remotely or in completely different circumstances than before with a host of regulations and health and safety requirements that may not previously have been required.

This in itself has meant a huge relocation of workers from busy city centres to their homes, either across the city or back into the commuter towns that accommodate them.

That change is likely to mean a fairly significant realignment of what city centres look like and what they’re used for, but what is that change likely to look like?

City retail

In short, 2020 was an absolutely dreadful year for retail with a number of high profile chains such as Arcadia going into administration and effectively clearing out huge swathes of commercial properties in city centres.

If these busy shopping hubs are seeing those shops vacate the space in such a short space of time what’s likely to fill the void?

It’s possible, of course, that other shops and retail chains could take up that space, but it seems increasingly unlikely that this will happen at scale. 2020 meant that a huge number of customers became accustomed to shopping online not just for clothes but also for food, groceries and household items too.

If retail space is unlikely to remain as such, then it seems likely that they will be taken over by more artisan or experience-related businesses that offer something that is a one off.

Given that 2021 is a new lease of freedom for many it’s easy to foresee that experiences, eating out and unique products will become much more popular.

Residential property

There have been many that have wondered whether swathes of people will vacate the cities in pursuit of a more rural living experience but given that the average age of city dwellers is relatively young it seems unlikely that this will happen.

If anything, many of the larger retail spaces vacated by businesses that didn’t survive the last 12 months could become residential property for those who want a renewed city experience.

It’s likely that city centres may have a shift of focus away from purely business or work premises. Don’t be surprised to see much more green space in city centres as well as bars, restaurants and experience businesses.

The reasons that people want to live in cities is unlikely to change significantly. People still want to live in plush apartments in busy, bustling and social city centres but are they likely to continue to be the sole area of work? Probably not, residential property and pleasure are likely to take precedence.

With that in mind, commuter towns and city centres won’t see any sort of drop in demand from tenants, private renters or young workers. Instead, the demand will remain strong along with yields for landlords and capital appreciation, but the reason for moving into the city is likely to become much more focused on experience and socialising.

Will Leyland

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