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24-Hour Cities of the Future: Nighttime Economies

The internet is never closed for business. We can shop online, be entertained and work (if we so wish) - at any hour. Yet bricks-and-mortar buildings and businesses are constrained to a narrow '9-5' window in which may activities occur.

Making cities more vibrant for after-work activities grows their economies - and draws people back to the CBD.

The nighttime economy has featured too little in the conversation around the attractiveness of our cities. Even if people are electing to be closer to home during work hours, pulling them into CBDs after-hours yields great economic and social potential. Cities like New York, London and Sydney, have special councils dedicated to improving their nighttime vibrancy with initiatives such as:

  • London - Amy Lame, the City of London’s Night Czar appointed in 2016 is tasked with ensuring London thrives as a 24-hour city, working through public and private partnerships. Initiatives include new Night Time Enterprise Zones (Bromley, Vauxhaul & Woolwich) that provide subsidies to boost their high streets' vibrancy after 6pm. A pilot initiative at Waltamstove High Street saw a 22% increase in foot traffic.

  • Sydney - Michael Rodrigues was appointed in 2018 as the state’s first 24-Hour Economy Commissioner serving within Invest NSW. The city’s strategy includes a number of alfresco events; and community advisory and stakeholder groups. A review of the past year’s initiatives can be found here.

  • New York - Established in 2017 under Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Office of Nightlife was created to help NYC’s nightlife industry prosper safely and benefit all New Yorkers. A 2018 study in across the five boroughs showed nightlife produced 300,000 jobs and over $35 Billion in economic output. The current Mayor, Eric Adams, notoriously embraces the 24-hour city, delving into its' nightlife, and visits business such as hospitals after-hours. If the 24-hour-NYC is your life's passion, the role of Executive Director of Nightlife is accepting applications here.

“This is not a 9 to 5 city, and this is a city that never sleeps. So the mayor should not be taking a nap.” Mayor of New York City, Eric Adams

Technology is an enabler for after-hours economies. Remote security, smart-access controls, and mobile technology means that opening a business beyond the typical 9-5 can be done efficiently without a venue needing to be staffed. For work and leisure, expanding what the CBD offers beyond traditional work-hours is immensely attractive. Whether it's to run errands such as visiting the dentist or post office, or dine at a late-night food market, turning cities into thriving 24-hour destinations is a way to attract people back into cities, benefitting the local economy. To create a better future for our CBDs, we must think in novel ways that question the customs that were formed in eras where modern technology did not exist. I believe strongly that removing barriers that limit the times in which our buildings are in use is a great place to start*. City-shapers and change-makers - let's challenge the status quo.


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