Despite Covid, Planners Expect Return to 'Old Normal,' Survey Says

Although the survey collects data from a small sample, it looks like North American planners don't expect the pandemic to change much about the way cities are planned.

February 22, 2022, 11:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Large numbers of young people, some wearing and masks and others note, walk around an outdoor shopping mall in Southern California.

Wirestock Creators / Shutterstock

A recent survey indicates that planners don't intend to change much in their approach to urban planning, despite the various disruptions and influences of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada surveyed 98 city planners (after disseminating the survey via the Canadian Institute of Planners Newsletter, the American Planning Association's Interact newsletter, and various planning-related social media groups) about the future of planning in mid-sized urban areas as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic, publishing the results in the Planning Practice & Research journal (the study is currently available in full online) in December.

"Despite calls for greater creativity and innovation, there is essentially no difference between what planners viewed as more important to downtowns pre-and-post the pandemic," says Pierre Filion, an emeritus professor in the School of Planning at Waterloo, as quoted in an article by David Malone for Building Design + Construction that shared news of the new research.

Like the public and the media, the surveyed planners are certainly aware of the negative effects of the pandemic. Among the study respondents, 60% "indicated that the pandemic had a substantial negative effect on downtowns," according to the study. "The survey respondents perceived that the most severe effects of the pandemic were experienced by eating and drinking establishments, with substantial negative effects being reported by more than 75% of the respondents." 

Yet, the survey did not reveal that planners expect to produce a commensurate response in the form of reform and innovation. From the discussion of the journal article:

The survey findings reveal a disconnect regarding planner’s perceptions of the drivers of downtown recovery after Covid. On the one hand, despite calls for greater creativity and innovation, there are essentially no differences between what planners viewed as important to downtowns pre-and-post the pandemic. This suggests that they are not ‘planning’ on fundamental changes to past practice even in the face of a changing reality, or a ‘new normal.’ 

The full Planning Practice & Research article can be found at the link below.

Thursday, December 16, 2021 in Planning Practice and Research

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