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The future of cities is walkable, healthy, resilient places

Cities throughout time have faced challenges, vast changes, and civil strife, but our future—much like our past—will be urban. The nature of humanity and progress is that we need to be around one another to think collaboratively, create what is next, and collectively drive toward the future.

Even as the COVID-19 vaccine starts to be administered, the pandemic is still racing through the country—with the highest rates we have seen since its onset. Most cities are challenged in ways that they have not been for a generation, with businesses shuttered or near closure, people out of work, and the cold weather making outdoor activities increasingly difficult in much of the country. A hollowed-out feeling permeates the downtowns of many major American cities as office workers continue to stay at home and the service industry ecosystem that supports them sees overwhelming challenges. What will the future hold? When—and how—will we bounce back in our cities?

While of course the future cannot be fully scoped out amid a crisis, it is safe to say that the pandemic will greatly accelerate certain trends already happening. Other trends will be shaped anew. All the predictions pointing to the end of the city and the rise of the suburbs will be proven wrong again. In the end, shifts will have happened: Some people will move out of larger cities and to other places. But many short-term trends of movement of people to suburbs and other smaller places will be just that. Cities—particularly superstar cities, due to their scale and inherent attractive factors—may even grow and strengthen on the other side of the pandemic, even if that growth looks different from what the previous trajectory may have looked like.

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