fake richard mille

15 September 2020

BSU Alum and Ambrose Development Manager Derek Naber writes article for 2020 Ball State Urban Planning Alumni Edition on the future of e-commerce

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Let’s make room for e-commerce.

There are many questions in the commercial real estate world as we reach the mid-point of 2020. What does our post COVID-19 future look like? Will office space demand drop significantly with folks working from home? How will people gather in open spaces?

I don’t know about you guys, but these days every other line item on my credit card bill has the word “Amazon” on it. One industry that is exploding with possibilities, but is rarely spoken about in planner circles, is e-commerce and logistics.

Ok, Ok, Ok. Hear me out before your mind drifts to dreamy mixed-use redevelopments and vibrant downtown centers. We are seeing several eye-popping trends:

Did you see the third point? One billion square feet. With a B. Over the next FIVE YEARS.

With new technology, improved supply chains, and changing consumer habits, e-commerce is not going away and is only going to get bigger.

How will this affect the built environment? We, as planners and developers, need to think quickly and creatively about how we can best integrate this growing industry within our cities.

Traditionally, industrial uses such as e-commerce have been, and continue to be, lumped into isolated suburban and rural settings. This has left large commuting gaps between industrial employers and a qualified workforce in the inner city. For example, on the east side of Indianapolis there are over 1,500 unemployed people ages 25 and up who have only a high school degree. When we think about e-commerce, instead of thinking about a boring warehouse, we should think about job creation and improved quality of life within our neighborhoods.

As a developer who recently transitioned into the e-commerce development world, I can understand that working on a 10-story mixed-user e-development is cool. But the industry and space that NEEDS creative ideas is e-commerce and industrial development.

So next time you go online to order toilet paper from Amazon, take a moment to think about how e-commerce development can be leveraged to build better cities.