17 June 2020
Tencent is building Net City, a car-free neighborhood in Shenzhen, that is around the size of Midtown Manhattan. The plans for the two-million-square-meter neighborhood, which were revealed this month, include parks, homes, entertainment venues and offices but zero roads for cars; instead, pedestrians must travel by foot, bicycle, or ferry. Net City is intended to have a “human-focused” design, as more space will be available for activities and amenities (rather than cars), and will rely on solar panels for energy. The parent company behind WeChat plans to complete Net City over the next seven years.
We’ve already seen major tech companies, particularly in the US, moonlight as real-estate developers...mainly to curb the housing/cost-of-living crises they themselves created. Google and Facebook, for example, are using land they own for affordable housing projects, while Amazon built a homeless shelter. Here, Tencent is one-upping them all by trying their hand at urban planning!
But what’s key about Net City is how it taps into a rising consumer expectation: that progressive brands step up and become agents of local transformation – particularly in areas governments are trying (and perhaps struggling) to address. In Shenzhen, the future home of Net City, local authorities have worked tirelessly to rid the city of its dark (polluted) smoke clouds. Tencent’s initiative demonstrates a long-term commitment towards this mission, as it makes its neighborhood car-free and prioritizes residents’ wellbeing needs. And the underlying expectation here is only rising, thanks to the pandemic. 90% of consumers hope to see brands partner with governments, while 86% want companies to act as a safety net to fill in gaps in governments’ responses to the virus – and, surely, this consumer outlook will extend far beyond COVID-19.
Maybe your brand doesn’t have the means to create its own mini Manhattan. But could you find a (less expensive!) way to become a pillar of your community? Could you establish lasting spaces or efforts that address local issues?
The TrendWatching content team