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How Coronavirus Will Change Cities, From Public to Private Lives

Changes are coming, but they don't have to be anti-urban, and they could mean a more resilient world for cities and communities of all shapes and sizes.
April 1, 2020, 7am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Shoppers wait to enter a H-E-B grocery store in Houston on March 21.
Richard A McMillin

Bill Fulton writes a two-part series on the future of cities after the pandemic, premising the entire exercise on two points: that cities have always existed, and that cities have also evolved. Despite the anti-urban messages gaining a larger audience as the coronavirus pandemic takes an especially heavy toll on New York City, Fulton suggests that cities are cleaner and safer than they were a century ago, and that they have thrived for a long time because they are adaptable.

Fulton takes those lessons to mean that cities will surely change as a result of the coronavirus: "The world after COVID-19 will be different — as it is after any disaster. And COVID-19 will accelerate changes that have been brewing in cities for a long time. The result will be a new kind of city, different than what we have seen before. A city that should be able to withstand shocks like COVID-19 in a sturdier fashion."

With more details on each of these points, Part 1 includes a list of predicted changes in cities and the world after the pandemic is over:

  • A renewed focus on public health
  • More sophisticated urban design
  • Fewer retail stores and a different kind of street life

While Part 1 of the series digs into the public life and design of cities, Part 2 focuses more on the private side of life in cities:

  • A changing office work environment
  • More flexible public transit
  • A renewed appreciation for just plain old walking

Fulton states a summarization of these predictions thusly: "Fewer stores but more bars and restaurants — and maybe a more bustling street life. More remote work and therefore more activity in neighborhoods. A more carefully constructed, safer public realm. More flexibility in getting around. All of which will make cities — and their suburbs — better places to live."

Full Story:
Published on Thursday, March 26, 2020 in Rice Kinder Institute for Urban Research: The Urban Edge
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