The Concept of the 15-Minute City and its Impact on Commercial Property

The concept of the 15 minute city was born several years ago, but really came into its own in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic in Paris. During the pandemic, the French government rules stipulated that the residents were not allowed to venture further than one kilometre from their homes. This led to residents regaining a better sense of living in smaller communities, making more use of local amenities, making new friends with people who lived closer to them, and, to an extent, reigniting the high street as an economic powerhouse that is safer to be in.

What is the 15-Minute City?

The idea of the 15-minute city is based on the fact that cities become a network of small communities, with each community providing everything that is needed on a day-to-day basis within a fifteen minute walk from peoples’ homes. This covers everything from medical centres to shops and places of worship and is being regarded as potentially a way forward in a more productive, happier, and environmentally cleaner world.

The slogan of the 15-minute city is ‘Access, not mobility’, with this being at the heart of any town planning decisions that are made. The difference between these two being that the term ‘mobility’ refers to how far you can go in a short amount of time, and ‘access’ refers to how much you can get to in a short amount of time. The concept relies on the fact that residents can move around their smaller communities either by walking or bicycle, carrying out their day-to-day life in their own local area.

The concept of the 15-minute city is centred around four pillars:

  • Density (there must be a population density that is high enough to ensure that the community’s needs are properly provided for)
  • Diversity (There must be a diverse range of different land uses and a variety of different amenities within the location)
  • Ubiquity (there must be a ubiquity of these communities so that they are affordable and available to everyone who wants to live there)
  • Proximity (Everything must be close by)

It is a concept that urban planners and metropolitan authorities are currently debating around the world and is being implemented (or the concept is being implemented) in several cities already. It can be seen as a solution to issues relating to the rise in work from home and hub and spoke model workplaces and saving the high street, as well as reducing our carbon footprints and instilling a stronger social community. To a degree, this is a return in thinking back to the older concept of communities that were once so strong in the UK.

Environmental Impact

One of the main reasons why the idea of the 15-minute city was ever dreamt up was related to looking for ways that we can reduce our carbon footprints and cut down on the amount of travelling that each person was doing on a regular basis. By having retail, work, and leisure facilities within a fifteen minute walk of our homes, we can significantly reduce the amount of travelling that we are doing and, therefore, reduce the amount of fossil fuels that we are omitting into the atmosphere.

With most destinations being available to people within a fifteen minute walk, there would be a reduced need for private cars. Sprawling cities with a dedicated business district, for example, would be a thing of the past.

Sense of Community

Nurturing a sense of community is an issue that many people have been lamenting for a long time. As travel has become easier, we have seen more and more people moving amongst different ‘communities’, watering down the sense of community that we once felt.

With the implementation of the 15-minute city structure, communities can be bought together through working, shopping, and spending their free time together, helping to bring back the concept of a strong community again. It has been well-documented how strong communities can have a massive impact on overall happiness and a sense of feeling valued in our lives as well feel more integrated and part of something, and rates of crime.

The 15-Minute City and Commercial Property

We are currently seeing massive changes in the way that commercial property is being used by businesses. Everything from the growth of e-business and the need for warehouse space to rent to hybrid working and the hub and spoke model bringing workplaces closer to people’s homes, the commercial property scene has changed significantly over the last couple of years.

With a growth towards the 15-minute city, we are likely to see still more changes – and we are already noticing signs. We saw a boost in the use of the high street during the COVID-19 pandemic when more people were working from home and following this there have been an increase in the number of people who are looking to reduce the length of time of their commute.

Likewise, we are seeing changes in the retail sector. Whilst customers are buying more online, they are also looking for a more personalised experience – one that can much more easily be produced within a smaller community on a local high street.

Places that begin to lean towards a central village-like community within a larger city will mean having a thriving high street with a diverse range of different shops and retail units, hospitality and leisure premises such as bars, restaurants, and entertainment facilities, and places of worship, offices and workshops. The likelihood is that demand for commercial warehouse space will stay in geographically strategic locations with good access to good transport links around the country (and the world).

Final Thoughts

The way that we are living our lives and the way that we hope to live our lives is changing. With this in mind and in conjunction with the eco-friendly benefits to the 15-minute city, it is possible that this could be used as a model for both new cities and the regeneration of existing cities, but whether this is a specific strategy or just a more general trend to become more local remains to be seen.

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