All places need a renewed vision, strategy and level of repurposing as we emerge from lockdown. Pre pandemic, investment attraction was seen by many larger urban areas as the silver bullet to economic resilience and growth but in this recovery phase, it less of a case of following the money, more about following the fun. We no longer have to choose where we live based on where we work.
The pandemic has created real potential for smaller urban hubs and rural areas as the remote worker makes this way of life a permanent arrangement. Just look at house prices in Cornwall and Devon or the West of Ireland. Where skills go, spend and investment follow be that through disposable income, companies seeking talent and new smaller satellite bases, or discerning visitors looking for the cool and authentic vibe.
Covid has also compounded existing trends – such as the demise of High Streets - and it’s no longer a one dimensional retail issue. Hospitality, commercial real estate, culture and leisure are all caught up in the maelstrom. There is much talk about repurposing the High Street in place management but there is a broader conversation beyond the High Street and need for further connectivity in place issues. Policy makers have woken up to the sustainability challenge and green growth which offer towns and cities the perfect rationale to accelerate pedestrianisation, greenway, bike/scooter lanes and claim back the centre – further enhancing the liveability factor.
The macro circumstances have changed at breakneck speed but the place product offer for both cities and rural regions is in catch up mode. Central to closing that gap is an objective assessment of where places are now, how they benchmark and what strategic options are available – only then can they understand how to effectively address challenges or exploit new opportunities.
It’s clear not all cities are on the demise, High Streets will have a bounce and an uptick in domestic visitors will provide some respite to the beleaguered tourist centred locations but some places are still more vulnerable than others. Place issues are all interrelated and the structural cracks of remote working, a significant drop off in international tourism, a rise in distance learning and online retail will need more than a few new planters and some outdoor seating. The opportunity is also uneven for rural regions – attractiveness, scale, affordability and infrastructure all still play as part of their overall liveability status.
There will be winners and losers. The predicted K shaped recovery will be predicated on where places sit now, particularly on the Liveability scale. Places like Donegal or Waterford in Ireland or Cardiff and Cheltenham in the UK look like potential winners. The losers are those which don’t have the liveability factor to swing the needle in their favour – towns like Rochdale and St. Helens which were already in the relegation zone for liveability pre pandemic.
New joined up strategies are required for place – not individual one-dimensional efforts. Liveability attracts residents and visitors, which in turn enhances skills and investment. Data is core to developing new vision and strategies as places and regions get to grips with the challenges and opportunities.
eutopia’s Vista tool helps places to understand where they are now and provides clarity on the short and medium term priorities. It reviews place attractiveness in an objective way, against peer locations and ranks places for liveability, investment, student and tourism potential.
Every place manager is imbued with a new sense of purpose but they need data and insights to make that purpose meaningful and to repurpose their locations in the right way.
To find out how your location ranks for place attractiveness and further insights on strengths across all place pillars, contact us email@example.com or see https://eutopiastrategy.com/services/vista-place-diagnostic