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Cities IV


City of the Future: Seven new facilities that will redefine the communities we live in


Great communities are founded on great ideas. At the same time, our most admired communities become a magnet, attracting the brightest minds. The relational effect is clear: Bright minds make a community great, and great communities attract bright minds.

In the future, communities will be designed around ways to stimulate new ideas using such things as creative environments, imagination sparkers, and inspirational architecture.

They will also be designed around new ways for people to meet people. Future communities will be judged by their vibrancy, their interconnectedness, and their fluid structures for causing positive human collisions.

The city of the future will form around multiple dimensions of human connectedness, the interfaces created between people and their surrounding community. A well-connected community will be a vibrant community where ideas are exchanged, energies are exchanged, and people become extremely loyal to the networks that connect them to the rest of the world.

While it is now easy to communicate with people all over the world, we can only physically interact with people and places locally.

For this reason, I’d like to step you through seven new developments that will add to our overall connectedness. So in addition to things like shopping malls, schools, hospitals, parks, concert venues, theaters, recreation areas, museums, and libraries that define our cities today, we are on the edge of raising the bar for how we define the nature of community.


Holographic overlays will help simplify the gameplay for the audiences.


1. E-Sports Arenas

Recently, Philadelphia announced plans for a 65,000-square-foot Fusion Arena, an electronic gaming arena that will host home games for the Philadelphia Fusion. They are a professional nine-person team in the newly formed 20-team Overwatch League.

This announcement followed similar press releases for Santa Ana, CA; Arlington, TX; Las Vegas, NV; Seoul, Korea; Burbank, CA; and Honolulu, HI.

It’s estimated that the eSports audience will grow to nearly 600 million gamers in 2020 with revenues exceeding $1.3 billion.

Look for hundreds of this type of eSports arena to pop up over the next decade beginning in Asia, Europe, and North America.

Once tournaments get more established, I would expect much larger stadium size venues to appear, with some seating football and soccer-size crowds of 80K-100K.


Mini airports will soon become a common feature in most cities.


2. Mini Airports

When flying drones started entering our consciousness a few years ago, a number of drone pioneers focused their attention on vehicles big enough to transport people.

Today, following the maiden voyage of the first Volocopter flight in Dubai, September of 2017, several companies have announced their intentions to compete in the soon-to-emerge drone taxi industry.

No one disagrees with the vast number of problems that will need to be solved before it becomes a staple of our transportation mix; yet, the overwhelming allure of this prospect has attracted a growing number of our best and brightest seeking to make a name for themselves in an industry where the sky is literally the limit.

In just a few years air taxis will be common in most major cities and along with them will come a new kind of infrastructure – mini airports.

During the first stage of development, planners and entrepreneurs will carve out a number of helipads in addition to ground-based landing pads around cities. These will most likely be small sections of existing parking lots.

As traffic grows, and the number of landing and departures grows from tens to hundreds a day, single landing pads will grow into multiple pads with waiting areas.

Over time, crude landing areas will evolve into sophisticated terminals for managing passengers as well as the street-level and air traffic surrounding each of these mini airports.

The speed of this evolution will largely depend on pricing. With private planes still costing many times the cost of a first class ticket, that option has never made its way into mainstream consciousness. If flying drones can somehow lower the cost to 2-3 times an Uber drive across town, it will grow quickly.


The character of a community will be defined by the unique tournaments it hosts


3. Tournament Centers

Somewhere in between convention centers, rec centers, and sporting arenas is new type of facility designed around competitions.

Most cities host a number of tournaments each year ranging from athletic competitions like softball and basketball tournaments to more intellectual endeavors such as chess club tournaments, spelling bees, or debate forums.

The complete range of contests that take place within a city each year can be truly impressive, and the overall economic impact of these ventures has not been overlooked. From an economic standpoint, some cultural events can make or break a city budget.

But more than the underlying economics of tournaments are the fluid social environments that are evolving around us. With populations becoming more transient, people want to be able to “plug in” wherever they happen to be and this need will begin to coalesce around a “place” specifically designed for tournaments.

In much the same way large conventions and group meetings have been formalized with the construction of convention centers, and recreational activities coalescing around rec centers, a new breed of facilities designed around contests and competitions will emerge – tournament centers.

Tournament Centers will be developed using various configurations to draw attention to the city and its cultural identity. A city along a river may include facilities for managing fishing competitions, while a city in the mountains may have provisions for mountain climbing competitions.

Yet, most of the physical structures will be designed around easily configurable open spaces, and a resident team of tournament designers who will earn their stripes by organizing a complete year around assortment of competitions.

Tournaments will range from volleyball to badminton, from bridge to poker, from hot air balloons to marathons, and from scrabble to robotics. The variety of options will only be limited by a community’s imagination.

Since each contest will have its own group of loyalists, fan clubs, and organizational dynamics, each event will involve a communication structure that ties directly into the group’s core user community.

From an entertainment standpoint, it will be easy to find out about all of the upcoming tournaments taking place. For visitors, it will be an easy entry point to become familiar with a local culture.


How easy is it for you to sponsor a memorial for a loved one in your city?


4. Memorial Gardens

Great cities in history were known for their grand parks with their flowing masterpieces of floral design. But today’s parks are often little more than freshly cut grass and trimmed trees, with a playground thrown into one corner for the kids.

For most cities, parks have deteriorated into rubber stamped open space, boiled down to the bare essentials of grass, trees, sidewalks, playgrounds, and benches – nothing memorable, with little to inspire the mind.

With a growing resentment towards sameness, and a move towards personalization and hyper-individuality, perhaps a better approach is the idea of memorial gardens where the community decides on a particular theme and becomes integrally involved in creating its own distinctive features.

Adding to the possibilities is a way for people to leave memorials for their loved ones. Rather than spending money on a tombstone in a cemetery that few people ever see, the money could be better spent on a statue, fountain, park bench, bridge, fountain, sculpture, or fire pit with a memorial plaque.

Since a growing number of people are choosing cremation over caskets, they are still looking for a “place” to visit their loved ones. By adding a stylish memorial plaque, every new feature would be paid for by the sponsoring entity or individuals.

Memorial gardens will range from active to passive on the community involvement scale, but with each new development, the host city will set into motion a long-range plan for people to rally around.


With their numbers exploding, new types of coworking will emerge for freelance project teams


5. Freelancer Colonies

As a next-generation type of coworking facility, freelancer colonies are an evolving organizational structure designed around matching talent with pending work projects. With a growing number of “gig workers” looking for their next project, freelancer colonies become a “place” where new projects are continually percolating.

Each freelancer colony will be formed around one or more project managers, and a staff that is focused on landing new projects. As new projects take shape, managers will reach out to their trusted networks of free agents to tackle the critical components of each undertaking.

Colonies will develop their own standard operating procedures with consistent agreements, payment processes, legal structures, management software, and methods for resolving disputes. Over time they will be rated on their ability to complete tasks with specific ratings on efficiency, quality of work, and how well they treat the talent.

The driving forces behind freelancer colonies are more than the fact that it is a good idea. Rather, it is being driven by a combination of technology, emerging culture, and governmental systems that make it the logical next step in the evolution of work.

Most will be organized around a topical area best suited for the talent base of their core team. As an example, a team of photonics engineers will attract projects best suited for that kind of talent. Likewise, a working group of programmers specializing in computer gaming applications will serve as a magnet for new gaming projects.

In some instances, large corporations will launch their own freelancer colonies as a way to expand capability without adding to their headcount. Staffed with a few project managers, the company will use the colony as a proving ground for experimental assignments best performed outside of the cultural bounds of existing workflow.

Companies are always looking for ways to circumvent the escalating costs of adding staff, and project-based work done in freelancer colonies becomes a logical option.


With mobile retail, every day brings a new set of vendors and a new experience.


6. Driverless Mobile Mall Shops

The idea of mobile mall shops started when I was thinking about rural communities. In most small towns the customer base is too low to warrant a full-time presence and permanent storefront. But a one-day-a-week traveling shop in five or six communities might be a perfect arrangement.

For this reason, it’s not a stretch to envision a new form of shopping center that caters to mobile businesses. With a stationary common area at its core, the mobile mall will be a central gathering place where a variety of businesses can “doc,” “plug-in,” and set up shop.

RVs, trucks, vans, and other large vehicles can be converted into traveling dental offices, tax preparation centers, chiropractic clinics, and retail storefronts. As they pull into place, merchandise and service areas will expand into a common area creating an “open bazaar” feel for the shoppers.

Most of the traveling storefronts will be one or two person businesses, nomadically traveling from city to city on their daily business adventure. Others will work a regular circuit, showing up on the same day each week, building a loyal customer base.


When your shopping experience is defined around fine craftsmanship.


7. Maker Districts

With so many retail stores closing, consumers are left with fewer options for out-of-the-home forms of entertainment as well as a pent-up demand for meaningful experiences. This collision course of trends is creating the perfect storm for a new kind of retail experience – Maker Districts.

Walking through an active, vibrant shopping district where people are baking bread, spinning pottery, brewing beer, making jewelry, cutting and designing stained glass, decorating cakes, molding with pewter, and sculpting with clay, will give every visitor their own one-of-a-kind experience.

In addition to the sights and smells, having musicians performing mood-stirring music will help form a different ambiance, character, and vibe with every visit.

In this environment, creative people are both the entertainment and the proprietors of the shops.

A maker district can best be described as a cross between an artist colony, farmers market, woodworking shop, music festival, bakery, brewpub, and brainstorming session all happening in the same space. It’s all that and more.

Here’s why I see Maker Districts entering your lives in a big way.

With online storefronts flourishing, the need to run down to the local store and pick something up has been replaced with a few clicks of the mouse and a delivery guy knocking on your door a couple hours later.

But consumers are getting restless. As mind numbing as it might have been to run to the store and pick up a bag of flour, there was always the chance of running into someone unexpectedly.

Coffee shops have largely replaced retail stores as the next best place to hang out. Most are busy, noisy places, but fresh coffee is constantly being brewed and people love to feel like they’re part of the maker experience.

The maker experience comes in many different forms, most of which are on the opposite end of the spectrum from coffee.

There are several reasons why Maker Districts are on the verge of turning traditional retail on it’s head.

First, people love to watch things being made. Every source of creation is also the source of inspiration.

Second, small mom and pop businesses have a vested interest in building their community. No, they probably aren’t the most sophisticated, tech savvy business people, but artisan products don’t need to compete on price, and they only need to earn enough for a comfortable lifestyle. These are people that are doing what they love, not changing the world.

Finally, from a real estate standpoint, the time it takes to refill an empty big box store with a Maker District can be a fraction of the time it takes to bring in another large-scale retailer. Cities will love having sales tax revenues replaced quickly and neighbors will love being part of the new experience.


Final Thoughts

The role of the city is changing. While most cities are focused on being “smarter,” “greener,” better connected, and having the most iconic architecture, few are paying attention to “what’s missing.”

Each new dimension of community connectedness is adding to the overall human experience.

Even though much of today’s technology is giving us super-human abilities and virtually everyone can now think-faster, know-faster, and do-faster than ever before, every new technology requires skills, talents, and understandings that are hard to quantify.

A fully engaged community, with participatory openings, endless networking occasions, and entirely new paths for moving dreams to reality will open the doors to new opportunities that have yet to be imagined.

The people of the world have an “unfinishable mandate” to continually stretch, grow, propagate, and master not only the world around us, but also the entire universe. And it all begins with rethinking our cities.

Once again, I’d love to hear your thoughts.


By Futurist Thomas Frey

Author of “Epiphany Z – 8 Radical Visions for Transforming Your Future


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