We are at the dawn of the next generation of the American city. The commercial real estate crisis that’s taken hold in 2023—and one that will deepen in 2024—will become the fertile soil for American cities to reinvent themselves. From remote work decimating occupancy rates in office buildings to unaffordable housing forcing long commutes to a looming debt crisis at regional banks, the upheaval in downtown districts across the country will eventually force cities to become more livable and resilient. This will not happen quickly, nor will it be inevitable. It will require extraordinary public-private partnerships and courageous politics at the municipal level to build cities that thrive.
There has never been a time when there’s been more choice about where to work, where to play, how to consume entertainment, and how to connect with family and friends than there is today. When it’s easier than ever to be anywhere and everywhere, it’s harder than ever to make any one place extraordinary. The cities and towns that hold themselves to this standard will become the templates for the future of American urban life.