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A Quick Look At The Future Of Stores, Schools And Public Spaces

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Gaze into the future with us... (Drew Beamer/Unsplash)
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The pandemic has changed so much about daily life. We asked a few experts which of these changes they think will be permanent in a post-pandemic world.

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Holiday shoppers make a last-minute trip to the Macy's department store in Manhattan on December 24, 2020. (Scott Heins/Getty Images)

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SHOPPING

For the last decade, consumers have been doing less of their shopping in-person and more of it online. 2021 put the pedal to the metal on that cultural shift, especially when it comes to food.

Online grocery shopping has been around for two decades years but until now, it failed to take off.

"People didn't trust that they could get quality produce without actually picking it themselves and inspecting it, or that you didn't trust the delivery come in time for perishable things," says Anthony Dukes, a professor at the USC Marshall School of Business.

That trend is likely to stick around. For brick-and-mortar stores to survive, they'll need to cater to in-person shopping.

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"We may see that transformation toward experience shopping centers like the Americana in Glendale and the Grove on the Westside," Dukes says.

But Dukes also says that when consumers can, they will return to walking neighborhood streets and supporting local, independent shops, which have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic.

The good news is that the small businesses sector will rebound. The bad news is you may may not see the same businesses owners on the other side.

-- Julia Paskin

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An LAUSD campus photographed last summer. (Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images)
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SCHOOLS

The pandemic changed how students learned and teachers taught. It also exacerbated pre-existing inequities, with students who attend high-poverty schools more likely to experience family disruptions and learning loss.

What does this mean for the future of schools? Pedro Noguera, Dean of USC's Rossier School of Education, is concerned schools will focus too narrowly on catching students up instead of on their overall well-being.

"My hope is that schools will see the disruption as an opportunity to do things differently," Noguera says. "For me, that means really prioritizing those social and emotional needs, the mental health needs, focusing much more on getting kids engaged and in learning. More emphasis on learning than on achievement, which is the outcome."

Noguera says there are also some students, particularly older kids, who have done well working from home. If schools can be thoughtful and strategic about the benefits of virtual learning, it could broaden their ability to serve students.

-- Monica Bushman

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A woman walks her dogs in Franklin Canyon Park on May 9, 2020. (Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images)

PUBLIC SPACES

The pandemic has forced cities to rethink their public spaces.

The rapid shift toward outdoor operations for restaurants, salons and other businesses ignited a debate over how to reconfigure a region that has been dominated by automobiles.

Midori Mizuhara, an urban planner with the Gensler architectural firm in Los Angeles, says until now, much of our urban landscape was designed with commercial real estate in mind.

"But what we do have is a lot of streets and sidewalks, and these are our largest public space assets that we collectively own," she says. "I think, if there's a silver lining to this year, it's seeing folks, cities, organizations and business kind of co-opt that space."

Mizuhara also says the pandemic has put the spotlight on public parks and other outdoor recreational spaces, reinvigorating ideas about how to distribute them more equitably across the region.

-- Lita Martinez