Recap: ULI Poland Annual Conference 2019

ULI Poland Annual Conference defines latest trends that are shaping urban space.

With “Shaping investments for next generations” as its central theme, the ULI Poland Conference held on 21-22 May in Warsaw was one of Poland’s biggest events that bring together project owners, developers, architects, urban planners and innovation experts who have a real impact on the evolution of urban spaces and commercial projects.

ULI Poland Chair, Dorota Wysokińska-Kuzdra, said: “We’re proud that we could host this unique event for leading Polish and international specialists. Together, we showed that urban growth and, consequently, both public and private spaces created by developers and project owners should be not only sustainable but also tailored to the needs of all stakeholders, from families with children to youth, working age population and senior citizens. It is also important that the innovations we introduce be intuitive for members of all those groups. We’re happy that the Urban Land Institute can inspire participants of the Polish property market to take smart and sustainable action by learning from the best examples across the world.”

Keynote speakers at the ULI Poland Annual Conference included Guy Perry, an architect and urban planner currently working for the international consulting firm McKinsey & Company. His presentation addressed a range of issues, including how the life model of inhabitants of large cities worldwide affects their health (life expectancy, lifestyle diseases) and climate change. As he pointed out, proper urban growth should also include creating a lifestyle and inspiring city users to behave in a certain way, not only by proper urban planning but also by tapping into innovative technologies. Encouraging physical activity, promoting a culture of collaboration and forging intergenerational relationships are just a few trends that could translate into better cities and the well-being of its citizens. Guy Perry named several rules of shaping cities with a positive impact on health and natural environment, including walkability (e.g. lack of gated communities), access to stimulating, mixed-use public spaces, easy access to healthy food, opportunities for an active lifestyle, a close coexistence of different generations as well as adjusting the floor area ratio and residential density to the local climate and culture.

Simon Kuper, a columnist for Financial Times, presented the advantages of thinking about the needs of different generations living in cities. On the one hand, he focused on families with children, arguing that the largest metropolitan areas should go beyond providing them with suitable living conditions (including a proper scale of residential development), access to nurseries, kindergartens, schools and recreation areas. Impossible to solve without involving city decision-makers, the greatest challenges include ensuring security for children in their immediate neighbourhood, by steadily reducing vehicle traffic and promoting alternative modes of transport such as bicycles, electric scooters and also autonomous cars in the future. On the other hand, Simon Kuper stressed the importance of preventing social exclusion of the elderly, which can be done not only by wide-ranging activation programmes but also by simple solutions available within urban space such as outdoor gyms for senior citizens, intergenerational playgrounds or even cross-generational co-living, with elderly people living together with younger people, e.g. students.

Making a hit with the audience at the ULI Poland Conference was a panel discussion moderated by Wojciech Ławniczak, a specialist in innovation, strategy as well as design and brand management at Very Human, and featuring young city users – students and people who are just starting out on their careers. Engaging people born in the 21st century proved that a wide range of amenities a city has to offer – a friendly, green and functional environment, efficient transport infrastructure and readily available services – matters more to them than, for instance, having their own flat. Importantly, young people are able to look at a city both globally and from the perspective of the neighbourhoods in which they live, showing concern for their problems in the context of spatial governance and often identifying basic yet effective solutions to improve the quality of life. While many expectations of the youth overlap with the needs of their parents or grandparents, the discussion showed that the energy and openness of young people can be an indispensable driver of change in urban space.

An inspiring lecture by Thomas Sevcik, CEO at the international think-tank Arthesia, showed that the areas of future growth of the largest metropolitan areas may depend on three main factors, namely competition between urban and rural areas, digitisation, and skilfully maintaining a balance between downtown and suburban areas. What is becoming increasingly important is the experiences of users and the ability to share them with other people. In this context, there are a number of elements in the urban fabric that are growing in importance, including micro- and macro-living, space to explore individual brands (e.g. various showrooms), urban warehouses (due to the development of e-commerce), modern production (especially in the case of technologically advanced solutions), and even…urban agriculture. On the other hand, one may expect that the role of the traditional office market, typical shopping streets and middle-class hotels will decline. With the rise of alternative modes of transport, the need for car parks will also diminish. What do these trends mean for stakeholders such as property developers? Most importantly, a more holistic business model, as their role will increasingly evolve into being not only the creator but also the curator and manager of a building or space.

The impact of innovations and demographics on the real property market and cities, where about 70% of the world population is projected to live by 2050 according to UN reports, was addressed in a debate between Arjan Dingste from the Dutch architectural studio UNStudio; Sebastian Junghaenel, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Zeitgeist Asset Management; Emil Kamiński, Research and Innovation Manager, Ghelamco, and Waldemar Olbryk, Board Member and Head of Residential Business, Echo Investment S.A. The speakers discussed investments in urban space that support the creation of healthy and active communities. Sustainable urban quarters, which often become highly self-contained yet open to their surroundings, are the direction that cities are going to follow or have already been following. This added value – creating something more than yet another building – is playing a growing role in the investment market in Europe, as shown by a discussion attended by Marcus Cieleback, Group Head of Research, PATRIZIA; Karol Bartos, Group Head of Asset Management, Atrium Real Estate; Bartek Mierzwiak, Managing Director CEE, Logicor, and Martin Polak, Managing Director, Regional Head CEE, Prologis.

Another crucial element of the ULI Poland Conference was the official launch of Product Councils in three dedicated working groups focused on the urban supply chain and the commerce-logistics partnership; placemaking in real property development projects, and new ideas for projects in the residential sector. Product Councils are a format available exclusively to individual ULI members, who can use them to share knowledge on trends and challenges they are experiencing.

The event was also an opportunity to present the latest ULI report, Grow with Warsaw, on recommended directions for Warsaw’s future growth following a series of workshops involving representatives of Warsaw City Hall and property investors. Click here to read the full report.

The ULI Poland Annual Conference was supported by Skanska, Colliers International, Cushman & Wakefield, Dentons, Echo Investment, Ghelamco, Globalworth, Greenberg Traurig, Hines, Vastint and Baker McKenzie.

To access the official photographs of the event, click here.

Speaker presentation slides;

ULI Poland Annual Conference 2019 brochure.