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The Smart City An Unfulfilled Dream

Smart City

The Smart City

In Silicon Valley, everyone is connected 24/7 with multiple smart devices with them at all times. It is sometimes referred to as a bubble environment. The north valley has transformed into a smart city of sorts. Data is streaming back and forth constantly and stuff happens quickly.

Silicon Valley may have been the first, but there are tech bubbles seeded all aver the globe.  Here’s a short list:

  • M4 Silicon Corridor, England
  • Science Park, Amsterdam
  • Silicon Docks/European Silicon Valley, Dublin, Ireland
  • Silicon Allee, Berlin, Germany
  • Aerospace Valley, France
  • Softwarepark Hagenberg, Germany
  • Australian Technology Park
  • Central Taiwan Science Park
  • Songdo Science Village, South Korea
  • King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
  • Kansai Science City, Japan
  • Silicon Wadi, Israel
  • Canada’s Technology Triangle
  • Silicon Alley, New York
  • Silicon Forest, Portland, Oregon
  • Porto Digital, Recife, Brazil
  • Silicon Hills, Austin, Texas
  • Silicon Slopes, Utah
  • Research Triangle, North Carolina
  • Silicon Valley North, California

These places are magnets for start-ups and tech-conscious people from all around the globe.

Smart City

“Global Attraction – Technologists from around the globe go where the total environment is best for them to make a contribution or breakthrough.  For them, it’s not just a job, it’s the complete ecosystem.”

The Attraction

People who want to develop the next big thing are drawn to these areas and everything they have to offer.

  • Great place to work, live
  • Proximity to excellent educational systems
  • Open to diversity
  • Opportunities to succeed, grow

The challenge is that there is no long-term plan for Silicon Valley or Silicon Alley in New York or similar smart cities to handle growth. This means some of the visions we have for a technologically advanced society will be difficult to accomplish.

Silicon Valley as an example

Silicon Valley now extends from San Francisco down to Gilroy. It includes the following company towns.  This list is in no way definitive but it gets the point across.

  • Cupertino – Apple
  • San Jose – Adobe, eBay, Cisco
  • Menlo Park – Facebook
  • Palo Alto – HP
  • Mountain View – Google
  • Santa Clara – Intel

There are hundreds of spin-offs, new ventures, and out-of-area firms and they all require space to begin and grow their operations. Along the way, some fail and are replaced by new dreamers.

Cupertino’s Vallco Park Mall

Smart City

Fallen Short – The Vallco Fashion Park was started years ago to attract consumers from all of central Silicon Valley but it just never captured mindshare.  Today, it stands vacant.” 

For some reason, the Vallco Park Mall never took off and it sits vacant, although surrounded by new construction and a vibrant community.

The owners offered up what seemed to be a viable redevelopment plan. This would consist of a 55-acre mixed-use neighborhood with up to 2 million square feet of office space.  In addition 625,000 square feet of retail and 800 residential units.

The location is right across the highway from Apple’s Campus 2 headquarters that’s near completion. This seems like a great idea for people who live and work in the area.

So what’s not to like?

“The Hills at Vallco features an unprecedented 30-acre community park and nature preserve, which will not only be the largest community park in Cupertino, but also the largest green roof in the world,” said a statement from Sand Hill Property Co., the developer behind the $3 billion project.”

Smart City

Breathing New Life – Developers have proposed converting the Vallco location into an ecosystem that includes homes, offices, shops and a rolling park.  Since it’s not part of an overall area plan, local citizens find it easy to resist the project.” 

On top of all this, there would be a 30-acre park with walkways. A green roof is designed to serve as a buffer for the residential locations from existing neighboring industrial sites. It would include a 3.8-mile network of running and walking trails. A vineyard, an orchard, an amphitheater, playgrounds and native plants to attract local wildlife are also incorporated on the roof. A great idea for a project but …

On hold

For the time being, growth projects around the globe, are pretty much on hold. Why is this? Apparently, those who have already staked their claim in their dream community don’t want more development or the additional traffic or more kids in “their” schools.

A friend of mine who is from Silicon Valley used to drive on a lovely two-lane blacktop street to his home. The drive took him through a grove of walnut trees to a nice home.

The road has been widened and the grove is now a residential community of nice, expensive, homes for newcomers.  So this is progress that many felt was necessary. The grove was a casualty to progress and here’s why. Silicon Valley added 65,600 jobs and 39,800 residents over the last 12 months. This increased the already growing shortage of housing in the area.

The people who forced the Hills of Vallco to be put on hold get it.”

The same holds true in Amsterdam, Johannesburg, Sydney, Dubai, Seattle, Tokyo, Toronto, Shanghai, Charlotte, Saint Petersburg, Stockholm, Brooklyn, NY and the Berlin Burroughs.

Real Estate developers have a solution … the smart city

Smart City

Complete Connection – Developers and architects have a clear vision of tomorrow’s city with everything and everyone connected.  The challenge is that smart cities don’t appear overnight with people being displaced/inconvenienced.”

People who own brownstones in NYC or Boston, or an apartment in Amsterdam, a house close to London or a home in Los Altos or Sunnyvale agree. Not in my neighborhood.

In the meantime, San Francisco and LA inch closer to each other as a community after community develop and expand.

Smart City

Collision Course – Like two solar bodies, the visionaries who plan the smart city of tomorrow are usually on a collision course with people who have finally achieved their dream of home ownership.” 

The challenge

The challenge is that tech communities are going from suburban to urban. Residents of Palo Alto, Tiburon, and Los Gatos love their small-town atmosphere. That’s why they live there. The people are in love with the idea of a smart city, but not in their neighborhood.

We have projects in every technology corridor without a long-term plan as to what they are going to look like in 50 years or even 25 years. This means neighborhoods end up with a patchwork.

Smart City

Interruptions – To upgrade the infrastructure and produce portions of tomorrow’s cities, citizens endure traffic interruptions and growing traffic problems.” 

Who’s responsible?

With no one responsible or accountable for long-term growth; designers, engineers, developers and elected officials go for short-term, uncontrolled hyper-growth.

Whether you’re on interstate 35 heading out of Austin or 101 out of San Jose, you see how area builders and planners are solving the problem … move the affordable housing further out and people will come.

Despite the inconvenience, people aren’t willing to give up their sanctuaries in the burbs so they commute an hour plus by train, bus, car and even plane.

Of course, there’s a way to bring commute times down. Simply build higher-density apartment complexes and townhouses near worksites and along public transit corridors.

Or maybe a more palatable solution would be to build out our communications infrastructure by upgrading to 5G and becoming more flexible in where or how people work. Micro office complexes located closer to where people live rather than commuting an hour or more to headquarters.

5G can have speeds up to 100 times faster than current 4G networks and handle 1,000 times more traffic. 

Maybe the smart city of tomorrow is horizontal rather than vertical? 

Even in the most densely populated cities like NYC, Singapore, Hong Kong, and others people could stream 4K video and make huge data transfers. Allowing a distributed workforce to work together more efficiently and more effectively without the daily moral-breaking commute. This would allow them to still enjoying their community, home, family and fulfill work obligations. 

Under this scenario, the Hills of Vallco might look more appealing to folks in that neighborhood.

More affordable housing and workspace are needed in every silicon center but tearing down to build up a smart city is the anathema to all of us who say that’s great…but not in my neighborhood.

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