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The New Emerging Economy Will be in Stark Contrast to that of the 20th Century

Reimagining Our Future, the title of the Florida Urban Land Institute Summit, focused on emerging market trends. The following are some of my takeaways:

1) The Future Economies Will Be Increasingly Tied to More Efficient Utilization Of Existing Resources

Need I say more than Uber and Airbnb? The entrepreneurs who started these successful companies noticed an inefficiency in the market. Many people had assets that were underutilized and they lacked a platform that easily connected their assets to potential users. In the case of Uber, many drivers have cars that sit parked 90% of the time. That means that the automobiles are only being driven 10% of the time. The Uber model is based upon the idea of creating a revenue source from a low utilization vehicle. Using Uber as an automobile owner can convert a depreciating vehicle into an income stream. Airbnb is based upon the sharing of an unoccupied residence or underused space within a residence. Again, the idea is that the fixed asset is underutilized and can become an income generator if rented to vacation seekers or business travelers. Advances in GPS, smartphones, and social networks has allowed for an ease of connection between asset owners and potential customers that frankly was not possible before these technology game changers were present.

2) Healthy Life Styles Will Be Woven Into the Vital Infrastructure Tying Communities Together

The wellness movement entails both prevention and continuum of care facilities. Health care, as a central program requirement of community planning, was a focus of the ULI experts at the conference. On the prevention side, vehicular travel will often share the right of way with bike paths and jogging trails. Fitness centers and parks will dot the internal network to encourage exercise. For the “young at heart” the continuum of life facilities, such as senior living, assisted living and nursing homes, will be a focus. These facilities will be integral parts of the community, not afterthoughts that are standalone facilities in outlying districts.

3) ULI experts encourage mixed-use developments whereby work, live, and play are united

Outlying single purpose bedroom communities will become less prevalent due to the opportunity costs of commuting to work. ULI experts reimagine communities that are mixed-use centers where bicycling and walking to work are more commonplace than auto commutes. Telecommuting and remote work trends have reduced the demand for traditional office space. While the construction of office space has markedly decreased in the last few decades, utilization of existing office space has increased. While the staff per 1000 SF hovered at around four in the 1980s, it is commonplace to see ten or more employees per 1,000 SF today. Again, this represents the increased utilization trend cited in the Uber example above.

4) Living Space will be Reduced, But Common Amenity Areas will be increased in Multifamily Residential Communities

When thinking of the future living space of the future, experts point to the home furnishing sections of IKEA. As one strolls through these various furniture displays, it is clear that the idea that “less is more” is here already. IKEA is showing how a couple can comfortably live in 500 SF or less. Miniaturization in the forms of tiny homes and micro apartments are reflective of growing trends. While this is happening, places for residents to socialize like yoga rooms, entertainment media centers, clubs, cocktail lounges, and fitness centers are becoming larger and more lavish.

In summary, the above emerging consumer traits are leading to a new economy that can be best described as higher utilization of facilities and fixed assets. This is what the ULI experts described when they are “Reimaging the Future.”

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