‘Urban patriotism’ key to cities’ success

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‘Urban patriotism’ key to cities’ success

Wet pavements under streetlights, soggy pedestrians dodging each other? Or sunny afternoons in the park? The romance of the city strikes everyone slightly differently.

But until recently, very few in the property business have delved into why people love a city, in what ways, and how those feelings might influence what you develop, where and when.

According to recent research commissioned by Landsec, the answer turns out to be what people most love about cities is each other and the values and history they share. This emotional, rooted urban patriotism is the driving force in city life – big city facilities, although valued, are most often seen in the context of family, friends, history and loyalties that make up city life.

The lesson from Landsec’s research appears to be that dumping facilities in a place without listening for that complex emotional context will not get developers very far.

Clearly, loving a city has a lot more to do with loving people than had originally been thought. City dwellers turn out not to be rootless and shifting, but to be thoroughly grounded in relationships with friends and family, and it is these relationships — not super shops or top-class theatres and restaurants — that keep them there. Residents certainly value the city lifestyle, but value it because it enables them to enjoy time with family and friends. Everything comes back to connectedness.

A strong sense of inclusive urban patriotism helps foster a strong city brand that in turn attracts new residents, students and visitors. In short, the report reveals what we always knew: that people like to belong, and you can’t manufacture that feeling for them.

Residents long for a better balance in which new enterprises support and reinforce a city’s values, rather than threatening or squashing it.

Landsec’s report underlines the vital importance of understanding ‘urban patriotism’ to anyone involved in creating and curating the built environment, and that by working with it and harnessing it, ‘urban patriotism’ can be a force for good.

Careful and conscious development comes from understanding the triggers for happiness and economic stability — development done well, will create that sense of place that has at its heart local identity and individuality.

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