Urbanism Next
University of OregonUniversity of Oregon


What will draw people to places in the future? How important will entertainment be in decision making? How do we create “buzz”?


What is driving change?

Change in Parking Demand

Minimum required parking is a major constraint in developing properties. The demand for parking appears to be decreasing in certain areas, such as airports, dense downtowns, and areas with concentrated nightlife, as people increasingly choose to use ridehailing services to go to these areas. The cost of providing parking stalls on site can be as much or more than providing similar-sized leasable space, so reducing or eliminating these parking-related costs as demand for parking changes could make many more projects feasible.

Reduction of Brick-and-Mortar Stores

Ease of access to places and goods is changing the demand for certain types of stores and may cause retail to congregate around anchor stores where the foot traffic is higher. As the need for storage and shelf space decreases with the continued increase of e-commerce, there will likely be a continued reduction in the footprint of stores selling goods that can be easily bought online and delivered.

Increasing Interest in Experiential Retail

People are increasingly likely to spend time in experiential retail, as well as in stores that can generate attention by selling limited-offering, specialty, or made-to-suit goods. There could be more mixed-use buildings with experiential retail, high-end restaurants, and bars as developers make complementary services even more convenient and accessible in a single trip.

Future Changes

What Could Happen?

  • Increasing density could boost buzz and vitality. Foot traffic is important for the vitality or “buzz” of retail stores, which are often located near housing or transit corridors to increase accessibility. Dense urban areas, particularly areas with high walkability and limited parking space, could greatly benefit in terms of vitality and buzz from continued urban densification as more and more people congregate there. The combined forces of change between AVs and e-commerce are likely to shrink the size of traditional retail and draw stores into denser areas due to greater foot traffic. While retail business may shrink overall, any growth in foot traffic will likely be concentrated around experiential retail and higher-quality restaurants and bars, with demand greatest near population centers.
  • There could be shifts in the locations of “hotspots.” A concentration of retail stores may not necessarily occur in dense, urban spaces. If people become more selective about their destinations and are willing to travel farther distances, foot traffic can grow in shopping districts developed in nodal patterns around metropolitan areas. These locations may not need to be transit-accessible if AVs effectively replace transit. Thus, the anchor retailers of the future could potentially be distinct from today.
  • Opportunities to enhance existing districts could emerge. While failure to adequately address commercial districts in decline due to changes in retail can lead to urban decay, proactive management of these underutilized or unused spaces can result in thriving mixed-use, residential, or commercial zones. Redeveloping parking lots near existing retail can help create a greater density of stores and enhance existing districts. Experiential retail, high quality restaurants, and other commercial uses can also draw more people into the area, especially when paired with new mobility technologies.


  • Pedestrian-oriented mixed-use districts help create buzz and vitality for developments. While many of the new mobility technologies are too new to have established recognizable trends yet, cities from Portland, Oregon to New York City have demonstrated that walkable and bikeable mixed-use districts can possess a great deal of buzz and vitality. Pedestrian and transit-rich locations command a price premium generally, with walkable neighborhoods in the 30 largest metropolitan regions having a rent premium of 83% compared to the rest of the region.

Quick facts

  • Walkable neighborhoods command a rent premium of 83% compared rents in surrounding areas, according to a study of the largest United States metro areas.
  • Both the United States and Europe see an average 52% GDP per capita premium for the most walkable urban metros over the least highly urban metros.

What to do

Not sure where to start? Below are four What to Do pages that we think are especially relevant to Buzz/Vitality:

More about what to do »


Policies, pilots, and approaches

Communication tools

See something that should be here that isn't? Have a suggestion to make?

Please let us know