Citing the estimate of 2.5 billion people moving to cities between now and 2050, Rob Speyer, president and co–chief executive officer of Tishman Speyer, said that cities are more important than ever in bringing people together in a keynote address at the 2014 ULI Fall Meeting.
“Most of you came from some distance away,” said Speyer. “So why did you come here? Community—real community, not a virtual community. Real networking with real people [who] have real faces, not a social network. It’s the same reason why people have been coming to cities since ancient Damascus.”
Speyer, who also serves as chairman of the advisory board of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and as chairman of the Real Estate Board of New York, citied partnerships based partially on location, such as those between Aristotle and Alexander, Paul McCartney and John Lennon, and Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.
Speyer calls the urban migration the biggest development opportunity in history and that cities are getting younger, greener, denser, more accessible, more diverse, and teeming with energy and fun.
“People have been talking about technology making cities irrelevant since the automobile was invented,” said Speyer. “And after the car, it was the telephone. And after the telephone, it was the television, after the television, the fax machine, teleconferencing, and now it’s the internet. But what I’m seeing in major cities around the world, is the internet is making them stronger and more critical to the future than ever.”
Speyer said that many predicted that the decline of Wall Street would lead to the decline of New York City, but tech companies have replaced the financial firms and are now driving development in that market in addition to San Francisco, Munich, and London.
Even in the depths of the Great Depression, the Rockefeller family bet their fortune on cities, in the form of Rockefeller Center, which Tishman Speyer now owns, creating what Speyer called a case study for “mixed-use development all over the world,” where people still come to ice-skate, see the Christmas tree, and shop—all on top of one of the city’s busiest subway lines.
Speyer said most of the migration to cities will occur in Asia and Africa. “The Chinese government is laser-like focused, despite all these legacy environmental issues. They want to pioneer new techniques and technologies for sustainability,” said Speyer. “We will learn as much from them about sustainability as they do from us.”
“Cities are not just surviving, cities are thriving,” said Speyer. “I close with a simple question: Are you ready?”
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