Resilience is a word that has slowly crept into our collective vocabulary over the last several years. In the last year or two, resilience in design, development and community building has become a leading topic at conferences, lecture series and in thought pieces across our industry. Over this time, I admittedly grappled with the true meaning of resilience and how to apply the concept to our work, creating buildings, building communities and shaping the urban fabric of our cities. The most immediate and obvious application of resilience was the rising sea levels and the consequences of not selecting sites and building our cities with that in mind. Beyond that, for me, there were more questions than answers on what resiliency truly meant and what its role would be in my professional and personal life.
Enter 2020, a year that has challenged us all in ways we never imagined, from delivering a global pandemic that has sparked a worldwide health and economic crisis to the growth of a fundamental social movement to address and eradicate racial injustice. Overnight, the word resilience, which preoccupied our minds as we began to apply the concept to our work, became the definition of what would be required of us daily as individuals, companies, communities, and a global society as we face everyday obstacles and begin the long road to recovery that lies ahead.
Resilience for me has become an all-encompassing concept that has brought me a new perspective both professionally and personally. Once a word I grappled with, it has now become a guiding principle that I apply daily. When I look at our projects, what has been remarkable to see through these challenging times, is the perseverance and ingenuity of every person from tenants to business owners to property managers. Each has confronted the devastating impact of the pandemic and instead of giving up, found new and creative ways to continue to persevere through innovative solutions that reconsider the design, positioning and orientation that was once the status quo.
The world we live in today has created a new spirit of collaboration between municipalities, businesses and citizens. This moment of partnership has resulted in creative new ideas that blur the boundaries of public and private spaces, creating more opportunities for communal outdoor gatherings and finding ways to rethink restaurants and performing arts as outdoor activities. By way of example, at The Wharf, we have worked to support our restaurants and bars by increasing outdoor patios, utilizing the streets and public piers as outdoor socially distanced spaces for eating, drinking and socializing. Added to this new collaborative spirit is a new collective awareness of the need to truly listen to one another as we grapple with how to shape the future of our projects and our cities and confront the reality that some of our national and local policies foster a culture of ignorance and hate that have led to decades of social inequity.
What will the future hold for our industry? It is obviously too early to predict, but I for one, am betting that the power of resiliency that we are beginning to witness in our everyday lives will ultimately lead us to the strengthening of our communities and greater sustainability of our built environment for generations to come. As members of ULI, each of us has a profound impact on the built environment and the world around us, learning and adapting from the challenges we are presented with today will help us grow and make positive change. From the policy decisions that we make in our cities down to the design and investment decisions we make as individual companies, the future will be defined by our adaptability, flexibility, and creative solutions. In a time in which nothing appears to be certain, of one thing I am sure, our resilience.
President, Hoffman & Associates
ULI Full Member
Member, ULI Public Private Product Council (Gold)
In ULI Washington’s new Leadership Insights column, ULI Washington will regularly feature member leader’s thoughts and insights as we adjust personally and professional to a “new normal.”