The evolution of business districts as we know them is inevitable – Dreaming the New Downtown


A summary of the ULI Poland PLACES + SPACES: Dreaming the New Downtown

The topic of this year’s last PLACES + SPACES organised by the Urban Land Institute Poland was the evolution of business districts, especially those situated in city centres. Companies’ efforts to acquire and retain the most talented employees also have an impact on the functions of centrally located spaces and how they are used. Districts that were often seen as closed clusters of glass-and-concrete houses or exclusive apartment buildings continue to evolve, becoming open and vibrant spaces even after business hours.

The debate on expectations about business districts was introduced by the presentation of key findings of the report entitled “The Attractiveness of World-Class Business Districts” prepared by EY and the Urban Land Institute. Vincent Raufast, Senior Manager at EY Advisory, who led the study, stressed that the attractiveness of business districts is now very much driven by their capacity to attract talent. According to the EY – ULI study, 70% of business districts users deem “access to talent” to be the most important criteria when evaluating the attractiveness of business districts. As a result, the quality of urban environment and the capacity to offer a “live, work and play” environment, with access to culture, entertainment, leisure and green areas for employees and people, is the second most critical attractiveness criteria (considered as “very important” by 47% of business districts users).

“Traditional downtown business districts also open to new users, e.g. start-ups and young entrepreneurs. Their needs and expectations are very different from that of large corporations. Business districts need to offer more flexible solutions. The ‘building-as-a-service’ trend is a fact. Collaborative space is expected to triple in the next 5 years,” Vincent Raufast said.

Visit to read a summary of the report by EY and the Urban Land Institute.

The debate between the participants of the fifth PLACES + SPACES meeting proved that the definition of “downtown” is subjective. However, Jacek Wachowicz, CEO Immobel Poland, Magdalena Bartkiewicz-Podoba, General Manager, Liebrecht & wooD Poland, and Soren Olsen, Partner and Head Capital Markets Poland at Cushman & Wakefield, agreed that districts that were not regarded as downtown about a decade ago are suddenly teeming with urban life in all its manifestations.

Olle Zetterberg, recently retired CEO of the Stockholm Business Region, an organisation responsible for promoting and developing the Swedish capital, also stressed the increasing role of downtowns. “People want to work where life is. They want to be at the centre of the action,” Zetterberg said. He also highlighted the role of municipal governments in creating attractive business districts. “The city doesn’t have to provide offices to entrepreneurs – real-estate developers will do it successfully. Instead, it should lay the foundation for effective business – support free education and invest in easy high-speed Internet access.”

The fifth PLACES + SPACES meeting was the last one planned by the Urban Land Institute this year. “We’re happy to have worked out a format appreciated by nearly five hundred participants. Next year, we’re looking to hold more events that promote sharing experiences between world-class experts and representatives of the real estate, architecture and urban planning industry in Poland,” said Dorota Wysokińska-Kuzdra, Chair of the Urban Land Institute Poland.

The PLACES + SPACES 2018 series was sponsored by: Globalworth, Griffin Real Estate, Echo Investment, EPP, Cushman & Wakefield, ECE, Skanska and Greenberg Traurig.
In the 2018 edition of ULI Poland Places + Spaces series took part about 450 participants and the following topics were covered:

  • 20 February – “Big Projects”
  • 17 April – “Branding the building, building the brand”
  • 19 June – “High streets, public spaces and placemaking”
  • 11 September – “Tomorrow’s Urbanhoods”
  • 23 October – “Dreaming the new downtown”

We plan to continue the series in 2019. Stay tuned for more details.

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