In many ways, COVID-19 accelerated trends we already saw in our economy. The loss of physical retail is one of them, and that will change the way we use our land.
"These are sites that will be gobbled up by developers and entrepreneurs who are well capitalized, they will take these sites and re-develop them for a mix of uses," said Todd Poole, a land use economist based out of Philadelphia. He’s the president and founder of 4ward Planning Inc. He sees former retail re-imagined into a combo of living, working, and playing.
Regionally, Becky Bradley, the Executive Director of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, agrees.
"That's where you're really going to start to see things like that fill in with housing and maybe a variety of smaller service retail businesses like coffee shops or a deli," she said. "It does help slow down the consumption of farmland."
In the face of a recession, Poole anticipates housing to be more multi-generational nationally.
"You got a lot of young people that were, you know, getting by marginally that will probably need to cohabitate with family or certainly a larger group of friends," Poole said.
However, regionally, our lower cost of living should keep our housing demand high.
"There is still demand for that stuff now, last month we saw over 290 single-family detached housing units being proposed by a developer in a single development," said Bradley.
Regardless of what that development looks like, it will have an increased emphasis on green space.
"They want the stuff, they're enjoying it, they're using it, and focusing on their own health," Bradley said.
"And that is not going to change, number one because it's pretty inexpensive to do," said Poole.