Real estate advisor CBRE has released a project looking at how British cities might look and feel in twenty years’ time. The research casts new light on the kaleidoscopic complexity of the future city.
The project examines what will make a successful city through a collection of more than 80 articles with insights on areas covering diversity, culture and sport, the economy, sustainability, governance, health, transport and placemaking. In doing so it identifies innovation, culture, and governance as being crucial to the success of British cities like Leeds and Manchester.
Innovation – cities are usually at the centre of innovation and technological advancement. They do this partly for their own survival; inventing ways to adapt to the sheer size and complexity of the city as an urban form. Cities also need to have the critical mass to support the highest quality educational offering, which has two effects. Firstly, it creates specialists and secondly, it creates cross-fertilisation of ideas. For businesses to remain competitive it is important to understand where innovation is thriving and how to go about identifying it.
Innovation is at the heart of Manchester and forms the basis of the city’s widely acclaimed status from building the first passenger railway back in 1830 to the present day with the creation of graphene, dubbed “the material of the future”, which has led to the opening of the National Graphene Institute on the University campus following a £61m investment to further the research.
Leeds thrives on innovation from building the oldest flying aeroplane in Britain a decade after the Wright brothers’ famous flight to changing the world with x-ray technology with one of the most important progressions of the 20th Century occurring at the University of Leeds, paving the way for new discoveries in the years to come, including work on the structure of DNA.
Culture – through its art, music, performance, food, architecture, identity and customs. City culture is a generator of success because it provides a higher quality of life and richer exchange of ideas. It offers both a challenge to, and a reassurance about, the identity of the city. Businesses need to understand how the cultural offer of a city might evolve, how a city can stay edgy and relevant in cultural terms, and how investors can spot where the momentum is.
Leeds has a flourishing cultural scene and was ranked as the best place in the UK for culture by The Times. Top class museums, including Leeds City Museum, the Royal Armouries and Leeds Art Gallery, which houses a 20th century collection of national importance, place Leeds on the cultural map on a global scale. In addition, the city boasts Opera North, Northern Ballet and the West Yorkshire Playhouse, as well as the Henry Moore Institute and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
Manchester, likewise, has a raft of cultural treats including the Imperial War Museum North, the Manchester Museum, Manchester Art Gallery and The Lowry, which presents a wide range of local, national and international events, as well as showcasing the work of its eponymous 20th century painter. England's oldest public library, Chetham's library shares the city centre with Manchester Arena, Manchester Opera House and Palace Theatre and many other live performance venues.
Governance – cities are getting larger, at least in population terms if not in spatial extent, and they’re getting more complex. Cities can often face a dilemma about how to evolve – as can be seen in debates about ‘social cleansing’ of housing estates, and an unease about gentrification. The British city also often faces challenges over its physical size, with Green Belt sometimes viewed as an obstacle to expansion. The successful city will be one which has the necessary power to make, coordinate and fund decisions about such issues. Businesses need to be able to identify the quality of city governance and understand how to engage with it; and the quality of that governance is connected to its skill in being able to engage effectively with the private sector.
Miles Gibson, head of UK Research at CBRE commented: “Our research shows that the future of our cities will be influenced by an immense range of factors, and the inherent uncertainty of forecasting means that it’s not yet known what the future city entails. This research therefore attempts to present the evidence on a variety of plausible cases.
We don’t believe that the British city of the 2040s will be radically different from how it is now. Our cities have been around for centuries, and you can see their age in their heritage of street patterns, built environment and rich infrastructure.
“This is not to say that cities will not be cleaner, greener and safer by 2040. But one of the best guides to how fast our cities might change in the 20 years from now is to look at the change in our cities from 20 years ago. In the 20 years since 1998, for example, London has acquired a ‘metro mayor’, the Jubilee Line extension, the Millennium Dome, Oyster ticketing, the congestion charge, the Overground, and the Olympics site. So by 2040, many individual improvements will be made and many neighbourhoods have been transformed. The cities that do best will be the ones that focus on vibrant innovation, a rich culture and strong governance.”
John Ogden, managing director, CBRE in Manchester commented: “As a city, Manchester has never been afraid of taking the lead and our hunger for success has driven our continued investment in its future.
“Manchester Science Park is teeming with pioneers, and the city has welcomed a string of exciting new tenants of late, including GCHQ. We have big ambitions to be a top-five digital city along with the likes of Stockholm and Berlin - and with Manchester topping the poll in CBRE’s recent Creative Regions report for the calibre of our businesses, talent pool and technological strengths, there’s no reason why we can’t realise these.
“The last two decades have been game changing. Our business district has mushroomed, with new developments springing up across every compass point of the City. Spinningfields injected a sense of pride and grace into our foundations, giving us an international cachet that elevated Manchester into the biggest powerhouse beyond London for finance, professional services and law. Much of Manchester’s turning tide can be attributed to strong leadership, which has led to tangible results and continues today with the appointment of our first Metro Mayor. It’s an exciting time for the city’s future.”
Richard Sunderland, managing director, CBRE in Leeds commented: “Leeds is the third largest and one of the fastest growing, greenest cities in the UK. It enjoys a thriving economy, boasting key strengths in financial services, legal, manufacturing and retail. Once defined by its industrial past, Leeds is now a confident, cosmopolitan business and cultural hub in the North of England, driven by continued investment in the City and the wider Yorkshire region.”
“It’s also a tech hotspot - Leeds ranked fourth in Europe, Middle East and Africa for tech growth clusters, seeing a double digit increase in tech employment since 2010 with a significant forecast for future growth in the sector over the next 5 years.
“Leeds enjoyed a healthy start to 2018 with nine investment deals transacted totalling £224m, the strongest start to city centre investment transactions since 2005/06. Large deals saw the likes of Brockton’s purchase Pinnacle for £65m and Rockspring’s purchase of 6 Queen Street for £37.2m, as well as Evans of Leeds’ sale of No 1 Park Row. There are also a number of assets in the market and demand is strong. The future looks bright for Leeds.”
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