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pandemic future: the spaces at ground level. These areas have traditionally been reserved for local retail networks; however, in recent years, they are increasingly being destabilised by urban transformation. Althougha surge in thenumber of food and beverage businesses after the 2008 financial crisis contributed to a revival of the ground floor, these ventures are nowamong the most troubled by the Covid-19 retraction. The ‘ground floor’ problem is widely felt in


urban centres across the world. “Let’s think of the richness of Parisian urban life,” Jean-Louis Missika, deputy mayor of the French capital, recently told us. “It would never be possible without the myriad of commercial activities that fill the streets.” The move away from such a historical heritage would impoverish not only our economies, but our social and cul- tural foundations. In other words, street-level lots will host


critical challenges to the city of tomorrow. How can we reverse the crisis and turn it into an opportunity? One way is to emphasise the his- toric role of the lower floors as a public meet- ing space. While it is essential to use the space to support existing commercial activities, it can also be used differently: for instance, host- ing new neighbourhood initiatives. For exam- ple, there are opportunities around accessible co-working spaces, ‘fab-labs’, non-profit associa- tions, youth entrepreneurship hubs, urban agriculture and volunteering centres. Such strategies would make the ground floor an intermediary between each neighbourhood’s community and thewhole city. Across the EU, funding from the Union’s


post-pandemic recovery plan can help imple- ment these programmes. Local authorities can play an equally vital role in updating the regu- latory framework, allowing greater flexibility on issues like the classification of the afore- mentioned asset classes. Such measures offer extra agility to public–private partnerships, paving theway for more society-benefitting col- laborations to be born.


SHAREDWORKSPACES ARE CRUCIAL FORCOMPANIES IN FOSTERINGNEWIDEASAND CONSOLIDATINGASHARED CORPORATE CULTURE


Over the past few years, we have supported


and worked on several projects along these lines, albeit on a different scale. Their results have been met with widespread approval among bothbusinesses and the public. Milan is following the path of ground-floor renovations as it redevelops its PortaNuova andMindneigh- bourhoods — projects in which we are involved in different capacities. It will prospectively go even further, fromthe historic Porta Romana to the various sites featured in C40 “Reinventing Cities” competition. As a forerunner in build- ing the city of tomorrow, Milan is implement- ing positive changes that could resonate not only within Italy, but also internationally. It is not only from the towering office sky-


scrapers thatwecan see the future of real estate and urban life. The ground floor, which ani- mates our life on the streets, will be among the first places to understand and rebuild.■


Carlo Ratti is a professor at MIT, director of the MIT Senseable City Lab and founder of Carlo Ratti Associati, an international design firm. Manfredi Catella, the chief executive officer of real estate com- pany COIMA, also contributed.


December 2020/January 2021 www.fDiIntelligence.com 31


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