In the second edition of Locale’s MIPIM 2022 blog series that focuses on driving urban change, Guy Windsor-Lewis, chief executive and founder of Locale, explores how cities are transforming to improve quality of life and contribute to a sustainable future with the help of PropTech.

This month saw the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities unveil a levelling up plan designed to transform the UK, which includes objectives to halve the number of poor quality rented homes, repurpose vacant shops, and rejuvenate towns and city centres with an ambitious, King’s Cross-style regeneration approach to transform derelict areas into sustainable communities. The plan shows a goal of increasing people’s satisfaction and engagement in local culture and community by 2030, closing the gap between the top-performing and other areas.

Realising our part in the regeneration of the UK
The government is driving towards a future in which opportunity and prosperity in all parts of the UK are more equally distributed, with infrastructure and real estate playing a major role in achieving this. It is down to real estate to realise this vision of an inclusive urban infrastructure, and commit to creating buildings, areas, and developments that centre on the needs of citizens and implement technology that elicits engagement and connection, improving the quality of life and living.

PropTech will play a substantial part in transforming cities and towns into thriving communities that prioritise sustainable life and living, real estate just needs to open its eyes to its importance. This isn’t just deploying the newest smart tech for an impressive relaunch. Proven digital systems can be applied to all real estate assets to combine social innovation, impactful communication, and smart solutions and services that respond to needs and support placemaking and community creation.

A service-driven era
We live in a service-driven era, and it’s becoming increasingly rare for a service, brand, or industry not to provide a digital platform to elicit further connection with their customers. We must start to view real estate and areas the same way. Birmingham is fast earning a ‘brand’ reputation through the restoration of existing sites and estates and the development of new homes and commercial spaces that add value to communities, all with the support of tech tools. An example would be the once-gritty Digbeth, which has recently been reinvented into a community-driven creative quarter through the transformation of its warehouse and heritage sites.

A key driver to the success of turning Digbeth into a destination was the implementation of Locale’s property management technology, which aids two-way communication between the estate team and the occupiers, and supports operation with the tracking of deliveries, logging maintenance issues, and share announcements on Digbeth. The platform has also given occupiers the opportunity to connect with the Digbeth community and all those who pass through using the Locale app. Whether that’s sending out limited time offers on products or services, promoting upcoming events, or advertising local facilities, Locale enables that engagement and allows people that connection to the area.

Listen & learn
In a previous life, developers would simply build, and assume the people would come. Today, this approach will not fly. For the built environment to flourish and succeed in being sustainable and fit-for-purpose, we need to hear from the people. Their voice is critical to transforming cities and properties into lively, engaging communities.  After all, they are the ‘end-user’ of the area, are they not? Their input would optimise the developments, from what amenities are desired, to what digital tools would be effective and beneficial to their daily lives. Establishing relationships between people, local businesses and estate management will surely boost the community and what it can give back to those who live, work, and visit the spaces, with a digital hub acting as a gateway to building and maintaining those relationships. Innovative, user-friendly tools will enable engagement between people and the spaces they share, and further the cause of making cities for citizens. We need to listen, build, connect.

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