The health emergency has not slowed down the attractiveness of the Milan metropolitan area, explains the 2021 report by Scenari Immobiliari. But some established dynamics have changed

The spread of the Covid-19 pandemic has strongly changed the dynamics, both in Italy and in the world, of the relationships between home, city and territory. The urban population has rediscovered the importance of the proximity of housing to urban services: a city of proximity, of neighborhood. It is a further affirmation of the validity of the concept of the “city of 15 minutes” which provides that all the basic services for daily life (work, health, learning, entertainment and consumption) are at a distance that can be reached in a time not exceeding 15-20 minutes on foot, or by bicycle, from home.

Read also: the rebirth of neighborhood life

Center-suburbs, new residential markets

The report by Scenari Immobiliari, an independent institute of studies and research on the real estate sector and its supply chain, confirms that the pandemic has not led to a contraction of interest in metropolitan realities, but to an enlargement and decentralization of demand towards more peripheral urbanized territories. The research institute has estimated that about 55 percent of Milanese families seeking a larger replacement home following the restrictions imposed by the pandemic are willing to move to more peripheral territories. About 20 percent of them are willing to move from Milan to the municipalities of the metropolitan city. Instead, 62 per cent of families who currently reside in the former Milanese province would be willing to look for a new home in another municipality of the metropolitan city than their original one. A potential housing need that, if intercepted and well managed, could represent an important opportunity for the residential real estate market in the short term, also slowed down by the contraction in the rental market.

Read also: how the residential sector is changing after the health emergency

The designers speak

A common denominator is confirmed among the most interesting themes that emerged from the round table moderated by Francesca Zirnstein, general manager of Scenari Immobiliari. The need to pay attention to detail, both in the design of the spaces of the house and of the city.

Guests of the round table, Patricia Viel from the Citterio Viel studio, Alfonso Femia from Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia and Massimo Roj from Progetto CMR. Confirms Zirnstein, “Patricia Viel recalled the work on new living spaces that are less linked to the standards dictated by building regulations and to preconceptions about forms of family organization that are now outdated, also responding to a large demand for single residents, which is now ignored. Completely forgotten ancillary spaces (corridors, small rooms, containment spaces, etc.) have been wasted and continue to be underestimated in the planimetric developments, being instead vital for the comfort of our homes. Both Roj and Femia, on the other hand, focused attention on those elements that generate and regenerate value at the urban level: spaces for sports and schools. It is the same attribution of meaning that goes from the micro to the macro, managing to activate new spatialities and interest in urban areas and, therefore, stimulate the growth of demand”.

The general manager of Scenari Immobiliari continues: “Milan can be a laboratory of excellence also due to its size; we have a population that is not too high, an amplitude that can vary from being experienced at a short distance, as a ‘small’ city, or being experienced at the scale of the metropolitan city, well infrastructured, with very strong medium and medium-long connection networks”.

And onthe subject of competitiveness, Zirnstein adds firmly: “Cities have always competed, and the presence of new populations is fundamental. There is no economy that grows with the demographic index decreasing and we have a negative balance; trend that will remain. The only way we have to grow is to attract and the dimensions (between the macro and the micro) and the interstitial and ancillary areas are very interesting areas to practice on quality. At different scales – of housing, of the neighborhood, of the city, of the territory – we will have to work on balances and virtuous models”.

An epochal transition for retail

The spaces of commerce, on the other hand, will have to be deeply rethought”, continues Francesca Zirnstein. “I think the preference for e-commerce platforms also has to do with a service theme rather than laziness or habits stimulated by the pandemic. The sector was already changing profoundly and the new dynamics are more irreversible here than for other sectors. Now the opportunity is created to build a new asset class, a middle way between shop and exhibition space, where the quality of the shopping space that will host us will prevail, as well as the urban one, and the quality of time dedicated to the experience”.

Offices suffer less than feared

The spread of Covid-19 has forcibly created the conditions for the most massive remote work experiment in Italy. In the short to medium term future, certainly many companies  especially large structured ones  will continue to maintain a work organization that includes the component of remote work, but not as a substitute for face-to-face work. Furthermore, for the new social distancing codes, the operating offices will have to provide additional safety spaces for each individual employee and different ways of working in the existing spaces. From a research carried out by Scenari Immobiliari it has been estimated that in the near future, in the Milan area, a potential demand for a new tertiary surface equal to about 650 thousand square meters (about 8.8 per cent of the Milan real estate stock) will be generated. This dynamic, which includes a trend towards partial maintenance of home working and an increase in company space per employee, describes an office real estate market far from being in crisis or contracting, but a sector in transformation.

Cover photo, view from the Torre Diamante, headquarters of the BNP Paribas group, in Porta Nuova, Milan. All the photos in the article are by Elena Galimberti.