Will 15-minute cities truly bring back local retail?
In Draper, a suburb of Salt Lake City, developers recently revealed plans to build Utah’s first “15-minute city,” a residential planning model in which all daily necessities — including shopping — are accessible by foot or by bike within a quarter of an hour.
Initiatives for 15-minute cities are in process in Paris, Milan, Stockholm, Vancouver and Melbourne, as well as Portland (Oregon), Seattle and Detroit in the U.S.
First coined in 2016 by Sorbonne professor Carlos Moreno, the 15-minute city model harks back to how historic cities in Europe as well as early American towns were organized before cars arrived. Instead of distinct districts for working, living and entertainment, the 15-minute city concept envisages multiple neighborhoods, also known as “complete communities,” scattered throughout a city where all three functions co-exist.
Online shopping (eliminating the 20-minute drive to the big box), virtual communication and the work-from-home trend are newer factors making local living more conceivable.
The 15-minute cities concept promises ecological benefits because relying less on cars reduces urban heat, carbon emissions and redundant traveling time.
In the way of social benefits, 15-minute cities and other “chrono-urbanism” concepts promise to reduce stress by eliminating the long commute while enabling residents to tap into connections from close-knit communities.
Pandemic-related restrictions and work-from-home demands have caused households to rethink investing time in their communities to enhance their quality of life. Suburban and outer-city homeowners are said to be seeking similar access to work, rest and play amenities as city dwellers.
Finally, equity is cited as another potential payback from 15-minute cities, assuming equal access to services, community-building amenities and green space can reduce social divides and inequalities.
The hyper-local focus would be a boon for local shopping, presenting opportunities for mom and pops but also national players. WD Partners wrote in a new study that explored in part the 15-minute city trend, “Retailers need to move to where the people are spending the bulk of their lives now: the local neighborhood. The days of ‘build it and they will come’ out in some distant greenfield are over.”
- Utah seeks development partners to build America’s newest 15-minute city – Utah Business
- Implementing 15-Minute Cities: Where to Start? – National Association Of Realtors
- A New Star is Born – Wayfind/WD Partners
- Ireland well suited for ‘15-minute cities’ – report finds – The Irish Times
- 15-Minute City – Deloitte
- London Development to Test Demand for 15-Minute Cities After Covid-19 – The Wall Street Journal
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How would you rate the development potential and overall appeal of 15-minute cities? Would such hyper-local communities favor mom and pops or offer equal opportunity for national retail players?