Benoy Hosts ULI Discussion on Future Mobility

30 September 2016

How will the evolving nature of transportation impact our cities in the future? This was the question posed by Benoy’s Director and Head of Singapore Studio Terence Seah at the latest ULI Singapore event in September, hosted in conjunction with Benoy.

Discussing the future of city planning and mixed-use developments which will make cities more livable in the future through the innovation of today’s mobility concepts, the event drew quite the crowd from Singapore’s property and design industries.

Terence opened the discussion by presenting his views on the evolving role mobility plays in city planning today. As we all know, increasing populations mean an increase in cars and congestion. Naturally, public transportation becomes the more attractive means of travel, reducing time, cost and, importantly, pollution – but not all cities are well serviced in this regard. 

To fill the gap, we are witnessing the rise of Personal Transport Devices (PTDs) as they become more advanced and affordable. Mobility is no longer solely dependent on cars or public transport; PTDs are offering an attractive alternative. Are our cities providing the right infrastructure for our communities to make this shift, however? And when this shift happens, what will become of the tens of thousands of car parking spaces within our cities?

Terence suggests there is a need to rethink the portion of car-related land use in relation to urban land use. Car parks actually occupy some of the best property locations in our cities, the opportunity to re-appropriate these spaces for events, creative pursuits, public realm, and the like, is an exciting prospect. 

Looking at it from the other perspective, Terence also considered the move towards a model where developments no longer provide car parks, and its likely impact on a building, cluster and urban scale. Imagine parts of a city without cars – what are the effects? 

Opening up the floor to a response panel which included AECOM’s Scott Dunn and Invesco Real Estate’s Darren Sabom, the topic was heavily debated. There was a consensus from all the speakers that taking cars away from our cities would result in an immersive, pedestrianised, non-stop city environment which offered seamless connectivity and an animated street life. 

Examples of this movement are already happening in Singapore, discussed the panel, with Orchard Road taking part in car-free days. To be successful, though, there was agreement that just closing the street to cars doesn’t make for an instantly accepted community hub. The streets need to be reprogrammed to stimulate engagement and road closures need to be consistent and well marketed to draw regular visitors.

Considering the opportunity to reinvent future redundant car parking spaces into new uses, the panel presented the practical challenges of this movement as well. Low floor-to-ceiling heights and ramping are not conducive to many development uses, retail and residential, for example. Authorities should be looking to enforce new formats on future car park developments which will promote adaptive reuse later down the line.

We shouldn’t be worried about these spaces becoming vacant, however, concluded Terence. The concept of emptiness is not a bad thing for cities as it allows for anomalies and the opportunity to diversify. 

In all, it was a lively discussion and one which we thank Terence Seah, Scott Dunn and Darren Sabom for contributing their expertise and time to. Thank you must also go to the industry members who joined us for the day and continued the debate throughout the Q&A session.

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