Greg Lindsay's Blog

July 16, 2019  |  permalink

ULI Florida 2019 and the Cities of Tomorrow

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(In June, I was invited to deliver the opening keynote at the Urban Land Institute’s annual Florida Summit. ULI was kind enough to publish a recap of my talk. I’ve republished it below.)

At the 2019 ULI Florida Summit, futurist Greg Lindsay, a futurist and senior fellow with the NewCities nonprofit organization, detailed change agents of future development including the electric scooter mania, shops without checkouts, and “urban cabins.” Lindsay described broadly how the disruption of retail, office, residential, and transportation will continue around the globe—and, in some cases, increase.

A senior fellow with NewCities, a global nonprofit committed to shaping a better urban future, Lindsay first touched on London’s mix of pocket parks and vintage coffee shops. “People make places, places make gossip, and gossip makes people money,” the futurist told the audience of hundreds gathered at the Gaylord Palms resort near Orlando, Florida.

Lindsay, a partner at the Singapore-based FutureMap advisory firm, emphasized that walkable communities will increasingly draw more investment dollars than drivable ones. Posing the age-old question of “suburban or urban,” Lindsay said that both hold promise but in ways never before seen.

New development now emerges along “spines of growth” that stretch out from the urban core. Companies are now drawn to “walkable, diverse places” in both urban and suburban sites, said Lindsay, who has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Harvard Business Review.

“It’s false to say there is tension between urban and suburban,” he said.

Mobility

Finding future growth patterns, he said, is as simple as following the locations of scooter- and bike-share programs.

“The hottest thing in mobility is scooters and bikes. Scooter growth shows where growth is headed,” Lindsay said. “In cities where bike lanes are placed, these are leading gentrification trends.”

Uber and Lyft are getting into the game with the purchase of scooter companies. In Berlin and Helsinki, Finland, ride-share services offer bundled, monthly plans in much the same way as phone companies.

“Uber and others are doing loyalty programs and they want more subscription-type growth,” he added.

Even basic mobility infrastructure falls into question in the “futurescape.” The urbanist author cited temporary closings of the Champs-Élysées in Paris as a high-profile example of reclaiming pedestrian space.

“How do we rethink what streets and parking can be,” in an age of autonomous vehicles, Lindsay asked conference attendees. “In downtown L.A., if you reclaimed surface parking, you could house thousands of residents [and] build mixed-use mid-rises and new shopping centers.”

But don’t discount cars altogether, he added. In the United States, car sales were near all-time highs in the past three years, the speaker noted. But as the average sales price of new vehicles climbs to $37,000, debt becomes a greater issue and that mobility quickly becomes less affordable, he added, in contrast with a mobility-on-demand service such as Uber or a scooter.

Retail

In the city of tomorrow, retail is all about “unbundling the trip chain,” Lindsay said. He cited examples of ways that retailers are rethinking the shopping sector, including:

• Amazon is moving toward stores in which customers walk with their goods through sensors rather than stand in checkout lines.
• The overseas online marketplace giant Alibaba is taking over existing convenience stores—restocking shelves, installing new hardware, and offering the products online.
• Walmart is testing its Walmart Reimagined Centers, featuring destination-style village settings with green space, food and beverage, and entertainment mixed together.
• In Shanghai, mobile markets in cargo vans relocate to better serve high-traffic spots.
• Pizza Hut is heading in the direction of mobile ovens that bake the pies during delivery.

Overall, the loss of big-box bookstores, apparel shops, and sporting goods stores leaves mostly restaurant tenants and more service-oriented businesses. Demand and pricing for industrial warehouses, meanwhile, will continue to grow.

Despite concerns that “the robots” will replace workers, Lindsay sees an emerging working class of businesses geared to delivering people, food, and products.

Office

The audience at the conference session laughed and nodded at Lindsay’s rhetorical question of whether the WeWork coworking movement was actually a cult. As someone who has not tethered himself to an office in 15 years, Lindsay advocated working from different locations.

Even though businesses with a permanent address seem more stable, workers can better network and share ideas when they are not tied to one office, he added.

“The shape of an office shifts with the change of projects and workflows,” he said. “Working face to face with others is the last thing left.”

Looking ahead, underused space can accommodate a mobile workforce. He cited an example of restaurants leasing tables as short-term offices once the lunch crowd leaves.

Residential

In terms of homes and apartments, walkability is the key ingredient moving forward, Lindsay said.

He pointed to BMW for building its brand with a new Global Village concept, which brings “urban cabins” to cities including London, New York, Los Angeles, and Beijing. The small-footprint cabins are designed and built in partnership with local architects.

IKEA also is launching an urban village project that supports sustainability with food gardens. Residents pay only for the rooms they use, taking more or less space as needed in an “expandable house that grows—or shrinks—with your needs,” Lindsay said.

The shift will be toward better serving residents.

Detroit is creating residential demand by taking previously blighted areas and creating parks filled with sand, beach chairs, and entertainment. Other cities are testing pop-up parks, shelters, and venues as a way to test concepts before committing to them.

At the massive Babcock Ranch community in the Fort Myers, Florida, area, an autonomous school bus offers opportunities for extended learning with the prospect of having a teacher on board. The test, Lindsay added, was sidelined temporarily by the National Transportation Safety Board, but it still holds promise.

Thomas Hoban, president of Kitson & Partners, helped develop Babcock Ranch and lauded the concepts presented at the session.

People begin to realize how big the universe is and think outside the box, he said. The discussions about coworking space and autonomous vehicles were particularly relevant, he added.

“Regardless of whether you’re trying to stay ahead of a trend, there’s no such thing as future proof,” Hoban said. “But you can build future flexibility and be flexible in your land plans with strategies to morph over time as these technologies evolve.”

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July 16, 2019  |  permalink

CoMotion Podcasts: Assaf Biderman & Kent Larson

This week brings a special CoMotion Podcast double-feature taped on-location at last week’s Moscow Urban Forum. Above, Superpedestrian’s Assaf Biderman discusses the brutal economics of micromobility and how his company hopes to automate scooter maintenance and resilience, while MIT’s Kent Larson (below), discusses the Media Lab’s prescient research around autonomy, micromobility, and robotics. Two for the price of one!

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July 08, 2019  |  permalink

Moscow Urban Forum 2019, or: What I did on my urbanist summer vacation

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Inappropriately enough, I landed in Russia on the 4th of July for this year’s installment of the Moscow Urban Forum — an annual exercise in (deservedly) touting the city’s efforts to remake itself as a highly livable world capital rather than a continuous traffic jam. Held in the Diller Scofidio + Renfro-designed Zaryadye Park (a.k.a. the High Line-on-the-Moskva), the forum brought together a smattering of Western experts with local thought leaders to discuss pressing urban issues, with the entire second day devoted to mobility.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to three sessions in my role as incoming director of applied research at the NewCities Foundation. In the first, on technology and law, I cited the Mobility Data Specification and Open Mobility Foundation as examples of cities’ burgeoning efforts to regulate code with code, through drafting their own standards for data reporting and collection. I also raises my concerns that dynamic congestion pricing could open a Pandora’s Box of increasingly opaque dynamic pricing on just about everything — streets, curbs, sidewalks, you name it. (I raised similar fears in my interview with Ghost Road author Anthony Townsend on this week’s CoMotion podcast.)

In my next session, on “disruptive mobility,” I was asked to respond to presentations by Kapsch’s Alexander Lewald, Superpedestrian’s Assaf Biderman, the Wuppertal Institute’s Oliver Lah, and Delimobil’s Mukhit Seidakhmetov. Seizing on Lewald’s discussion of “mobility demand management,” I pointed out that nearly all of the recent innovation in mobility has been around supply; the new frontier is in massaging demand. I originally made this point in 2016 report on new mobility for NewCities; more recently, David Zipper made a similar point in his story about public transit agencies embracing loyalty programs. But that’s just the beginning; combining MaaS programs with real-time incentives could be the key to making these systems self-sustaining.

Finally, I joined MIT’s Kent Larson and former Barcelona chief architect Vicente Guallart on the main stage to discuss the future of streets. Following Larson’s 35,000-ft. view of cities and Guallart’s own tour de force presentation, I made my more modest case for harnessing data-driven placemaking to transform streets from thoroughfares into pieces of the public realm. Highlighting my recent work in Paris, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Abu Dhabi, I made the case for how we might quickly, cheaply, and iteratively reclaim our streets.

From there, it was off to Strelka for dancing. (That’s a story for another time.) But stay tuned for forthcoming CoMotion podcasts with Larson and Biderman. Until then, enjoy your own urbanist summer vacations.

(Update: MUF has posted video of my main stage talk on the street of the future. In an odd formatting choice, the organizers combined all 10+ hours of footage into a single stream. So please skip ahead to 7:18:00 to see me take the stage.)

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July 01, 2019  |  permalink

reSITE 2019: Meet a New Generation of Urban Activists Reshaping Our Cities

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(This fall, I’ll return as guest curator of the annual urbanism conference reSITE. Here’s a sneak peek of what we’re planning.)

In a world where cities are evolving at exponential rates, adaptation is key. Many cities have been stuck in the same decaying cycle leading to their decline, hurting its very own citizens, both young and old alike. Meet a new generation of politicians with urbanist agendas.

When we talk about regenerating cities, the unspoken question is: who are we regenerating them for? Are we taking value from residents and giving it to someone else? Or are we sharing the gains fairly? There’s no such thing as a blank slate. - Greg Lindsay, reSITE’s program curator

“Neglect and dereliction are constant in cities, but I wouldn’t call it natural. They’re the result of conscious choices to disinvest in a certain neighborhood because of who lives there, or because a gainfully-employing industry has been disrupted by new technology. Think of how container ships devastated waterfronts around the world until they were repurposed for leisure” said reSITE’s guest curator, Greg Lindsay.

Every year at reSITE, we bring a portfolio of professionals across different industries together to hold conversations at the intersections of city making, architecture and design, and this year will be no different.

To highlight a few speakers we will see on this year’s 360-degree stage, who are rethinking and remaking the cities at every scale, restoring their respective communities, and seeking ways to rejuvenate the urban environment while reaching for sustainability:

Joining the reSITE 2019 roster is whistle-blowing Jane-Jacobs of the smart city era, Bianca Wylie. The founder of TechReset has been calling out the hidden agenda behind smart city technology companies.

“The smart city industry is a Trojan horse for technology companies. They come in under the guise of environmentalism and improving the quality of life, but they’re here for money.” - Bianca Wylie

Also joining the REGENERATE line-up is the sitting Mayor for Bratislava, Matúš Vallo, who won his seat through urban activism with his assemblance on Plan Bratislava. The complex manual aimed to improve Slovakia’s capital city, represents a new generation of urbanists. Vallo brought together over 70 experts across the various fields of city making for the publication, creating a new vision for thier city through transparency, collectivity and regeneration.

We’ve all had a good laugh trolling the heinous “luxury home” trend that have spread like wildfire throughout American suburbs on urban activist, Kate Wagner’s blog. McMansion Hell is the protagonist shining a bright light on how these massive dwellings are more than just ugly - but energy-sucking enemies to sustainability while making architecture criticism accessible to the masses.

Don’t miss Emmanual Pratt, the director of the Sweetwater Foundation. His regenerative placemaking approach uses art, architecture, community and economic development with communities on the South Side of Chicago. He combined these interdisciplinary focuses turn an abandoned shoe factory into an urban farm.

REGENERATE will bring together this new generation or urban activists and more. From leaders on climate and energy, architecture and design, city planning, and public policy, and all of their intersections, in search of solutions for reinventing the city to adapt for generations to come. Don’t miss this one-of-a-kind event happening this September in Prague.

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July 01, 2019  |  permalink

CoMotion Podcasts: Henrik Haenecke & Don Burnette

The latest episodes of the CoMotion Podcast feature Berlin BVG’s Dr. Henrik Haenecke — mastermind of the world’s first public sector-led mobility-as-a-service platform, Jelbi — and Kodiak Robotics co-founder and CEO Don Burnette, who emerged from the ashes of autonomous trucking pioneer Otto (and its disastrous acquisition by Uber) to stake a claim in the space once again. Listen to Haenecke above and Burnette below.

 

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June 25, 2019  |  permalink

Designing our Future: Transforming Urban Mobility

Back in April, the UK’s Department of International Trade invited me to moderate a panel on the future of urban mobility, starring Andy Byford, president of New York City Transit — the man destined to fix my city’s subways — Cubic’s Crissy Ditmore, and drone expert Dr. Anita Sengupta. Click on the video above for a rollicking good time.

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June 18, 2019  |  permalink

CoMotion Podcasts: Elie Finegold & Alissa Walker

I’m back with two new editions of the CoMotion Podcast — one with Metaprop’s Elie Finegold (above) on the intersection of new mobility and real estate (hint: he’s literally betting on increasing access and density) and Curbed urbanism editor Alissa Walker (below) on all things mobility in LA and California. Please give them a listen.

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May 18, 2019  |  permalink

Spring 2019 Speaking Update

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Summer is around the corner, which means the spring speaking season has already come and (mostly) gone. Here’s a quick recap of where I’ve been this year to date, and where I’m headed next.

• The Millennial Metric™, the New Suburbia, and the future of housing. While it hasn’t been officially announced, I’m currently working on a project with the NewCities Foundation and Ivanhoé Cambridge to develop a “Millennial Metric” predicting where American millennials will likely migrate as they reach middle age and child-rearing. Marrying the qualitative with the quantitative — I spent this spring visiting Denver, Nashville, Washington DC, Dallas-Ft. Worth, and Columbus —  we hope to make a major contribution to understanding of millennials as a cohort. But I’m not waiting until the report is published in June to start disseminating my findings.

In February, I delivered a keynote on “The New Suburbia” at the International Builders Show in Las Vegas, of which you can find (grainy) video here. (I gave a similar talk to SIOR in April, with video here.) I also gave a second talk at IBS on how technology is transforming home construction. (Video of that talk here.)

Related to that subject, I’m curating and hosting a pair of events this summer and fall. First, NewCities is hosting New Housing Solutions in New York in June – a two-day conference and workshop covering everything from the rise of “coliving” to the presidential candidates’ plans on housing policy. Second, I’m returning as the curator of reSITE 2019: REGNERATE in Prague this September. As the title implies, the theme touches upon both urban regeneration, and also generations of urban dwellers — everything from senior housing to millennial family-friendly cities.

Rounding out my city-focused work this spring, I spoke at Institutional Real Estate Investors’ VIP conference back in January (video preview here and recap here), and moderated the opening panel at the 92nd St. Y’s annual “City of Tomorrow” conference in March. (Video here.)

“Micromobility” and the future of transportation. As the director of strategy for LA CoMotion, mobility is always on mind mind. In April, I delivered the opening keynote at ThinkTransit in Tampa, then ran a workshop on autonomous vehicles for 40+ public transport C-level executives from around the US and Canada. The month before, I moderated a panel organized by the British Consulate in New York starring Andy Byford, the former London and Toronto transit expert trying to fix NYC’s subways.

I also host a podcast series for LA CoMotion — the third edition of which will be held in November, and is expanding to Miami and France — with recent guests including futurist Scott Smith, former venture capitalist David Zipper  WhereismyTransport? CEO Devin de Vries, the New Zealand Transport Authority’s Martin McMullan, and former Baltimore transit chief Paul Comfort.

Zipper and I talked a lot about “micromobility,” i.e. scooters and bicycles, and I moderated a session at the inaugural Micromobility conference in San Francisco in January. (Audio here.)

“Dark Hammer” and the U.S. Army Cyber Institute. I was at West Point this spring for the launch of “Dark Hammer,” a coffee table book published by the U.S. Army Cyber Institute(!) collecting eight comic books(!!) depicting the grave consequences of future cyber threats. (You can read more about it here.)

AI & Autonomous Everything Last month, I finally had a chance to speak about artificial intelligence, machine learning, and autonomy to the North American Meat Institute(!), which had more applications than you might think. (The Internet of Cows, anyone?)

Next up in the docket: “Cities-as-a-Service” for CREtech Trailblazers in June, followed by Procurious in London a few days later, then ULI Florida a few days after that.

 

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May 14, 2019  |  permalink

Ghost Smart Cities: A CoMotion/Underfutures Crossover

Earlier this month, I visited Abu Dhabi at the invitation of Scott Smith, co-founder and managing partner of the foresight firm Changeist. Upon returning from the desert, we dropped by Masdar — the (in)famous zero-carbon experimental prototype community of tomorrow which in ten short years has become just as retro-futuristic as EPCOT itself. Interviewing Scott for the CoMotion podcast and vice versa for Changeist’s own podcast, Underfutures, we discussed ghost smart cities, “mobility spam,” and retrofutures in the cool micro-climate of Masdar. (Cooler than the desert, anyway.) CoMotion podcast above, Underfutures below.

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May 13, 2019  |  permalink

reSITE 2019: REGENERATE

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I’m delighted to announce I’ve been invited to return as guest curator of reSITE 2019: REGENERATE in Prague this fall. As the name of this year’s conference implies, our theme not only concerns urban regeneration, but also creating cities for multiple generations, whether re-designing safer cities and streets for seniors to grappling with the challenges facing younger generations, including housing, raising families, and of course, climate change.

Last year’s edition attracted more than 1,200+ guests and 50+ speakers from around the world, with big names such as Jeanne Gang and Sou Fujimoto joining less heralded but brilliant thinkers such as Infinite Detail author Tim Maughan and Apoyo Mutuo Mariana co-founder Christine Nieves.

Please watch this space for more announcements about speakers and programming soon.

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About Greg Lindsay

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Greg Lindsay is a journalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is the director of applied research at NewCities and director of strategy at its mobility offshoot CoMotion.  He is also a partner at FutureMap, a geo-strategic advisory firm based in Singapore, a non-resident senior fellow of The Atlantic Council’s Foresight, Strategy, and Risks Initiative, and co-author of Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next.

» More about Greg Lindsay

Blog

July 16, 2019

ULI Florida 2019 and the Cities of Tomorrow

July 16, 2019

CoMotion Podcasts: Assaf Biderman & Kent Larson

July 08, 2019

Moscow Urban Forum 2019, or: What I did on my urbanist summer vacation

July 01, 2019

reSITE 2019: Meet a New Generation of Urban Activists Reshaping Our Cities

» More blog posts

Articles by Greg Lindsay

CityLab  |  December 10, 2018

The State of Play: Connected Mobility in San Francisco, Boston, and Detroit

Harvard Business Review  |  September 24, 2018

Why Companies Are Creating Their Own Coworking Spaces

CityLab  |  July 2018

The State of Play: Connected Mobility + U.S. Cities

Medium  |  May 1, 2017

The Engine Room

Fast Company  |  January 19, 2017

The Collaboration Software That’s Rejuvenating The Young Global Leaders Of Davos

The Guardian  |  January 13, 2017

What If Uber Kills Public Transport Instead of Cars

Backchannel  |  January 4, 2017

The Office of the Future Is…an Office

New Cities Foundation  |  October 2016

Now Arriving: A Connected Mobility Roadmap for Public Transport

Inc.  |  October 2016

Why Every Business Should Start in a Co-Working Space

Popular Mechanics  |  May 11, 2016

Can the World’s Worst Traffic Problem Be Solved?

The New Republic  |  January/February 2016

Hacking The City

Fast Company  |  September 22, 2015

We Spent Two Weeks Wearing Employee Trackers: Here’s What We Learned

Fast Company  |  September 21, 2015

HR Meets Data: How Your Boss Will Monitor You To Create The Quantified Workplace

Inc.  |  March 2015

Which Contacts Should You Keep in Touch With? Let This Software Tell You

Inc.  |  March 2015

5 Global Cities of the Future

Global Solution Networks  |  December 2014

Cities on the Move

Medium  |  November 2014

Engineering Serendipity

New York University  |  October 2014

Sin City vs. SimCity

Harvard Business Review  |  October 2014

Workspaces That Move People

Inc.  |  April 2014

The Network Effect

» See all articles