How to smarten up cities

31 / 08 / 22 - 6 minute read

What we need are not new smart cities but ‘smartened up’ cities to deal with the challenges of decarbonization, demography, digitalization and urbanization, argues Mahdi Mokrane, Head of Global Investment Strategy, Research & Investment Solutions at PATRIZIA.

Yet, while we may increasingly be an urban species, cities can be overwhelming places full of strangers. The results are

Amenities make a location

PATRIZIA increasingly leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to help inform investment decisions. We also boast one of the largest operating platforms in Europe, with more than 900 experts on the ground, 200 of them in residential. This unique combination of data obtained by artificial intelligence and local market intelligence enables PATRIZIA to develop a knowledge-based investment strategy and identify anomalies that often lead to investment opportunities.

For the last few years, PATRIZIA has used the Amenities Magnet Report to evaluate the attractiveness of locations based on access to nearby amenities (or Points of Interest – POIs) across Europe and Japan. The Amenities Magnet Report accesses a database of more than 25 million POIs (schools, nurseries, shops, cinemas, green spaces, restaurants and bars, air quality, …) and generates a scoring system to assess any location’s relative attractiveness depending on the intended use: residential, office, senior living, etc.

When given a street name or address, the digital tool provides a score ranging from 0 to 100 according to the quality of amenities in and around that location. The higher the score, the greater the supply of positive amenities and, therefore, the more attractive the location. The Amenities Magnet allows PATRIZIA Real Estate to instantaneously generate a transparent opinion of the market for amenities and effectively rank any locations.

While we may increasingly be an urban species, cities can be overwhelming places full of strangers. The results are anxiety and depression rates higher in urban rather than rural settings. The antidote is to create a sense of community. We humans have an inherent need to belong.

Mahdi Mokrane

15-minute Magnet

The team has released a new version of the Magnet Report that allows us to bore deeper into the algorithm and select aspects of the database that reflects the wellbeing of local inhabitants. Given an address in any major city across Europe and Japan, the team can quickly analyze the location against seven categories that match up to the 15-minute city concept.

The categories are commuting, living, caring, working, educating, supplying and enjoying. Under each of these can be thousands of POIs relating to a particular theme. For example, commuting includes tram stops, railway stations or car sharing. Enjoying embraces local features like parks and stadiums, while living has restaurants and greengrocers.

Using the Magnet, we quickly build a rich, interactive overview of a location in terms of its surrounding amenities. We use this to identify investment opportunities for our clients – and this can includes determining what may be missing and procuring it.

For example, it could be that public spaces are missing, so we can include these in a development or refurbishment, as we are doing in the Havelufer Quartier in Berlin. In other cases, it could be a library that, together with the city, we can consider integrating into a development. This is only one of the innovative ways PATRIZIA Real Estate uses data intelligence to identify investment opportunities.

The decade of infrastructure

Creating livable communities is only one of the many challenges confronting our cities. Our cities face immense overcrowding, traffic congestion, decarbonization, digitalization, environmental degradation, resource scarcity and environmental threats.

At PATRIZIA, we believe many good things can come from smart city concepts, such as better resource management, traffic efficiency, healthcare and environmental applications. However, given the challenges of existing cities, we should be less focused on creating smart cities from scratch and more on ‘smartening up’ our existing cities.

The best benefit we can provide is retrofitting the existing infrastructure, buildings and services intelligently so they remain secure, resilient and, above all, livable.

The global demand for infrastructure has never been so high, and governments alone cannot meet the needs. Global investors are increasingly stepping into the gap and upping their portfolio exposure to this sector, appreciating its solid long-term investment potential amid the turmoil of a rapidly changing world.


PATRIZIA has a unique offering of infrastructure, real estate, and technology. Besides access to the latest insights and research and our extensive network of local experts, PATRIZIA benefits from decades of experience in infrastructure.

Mahdi Mokrane

Synergies between residential and infrastructure

PATRIZIA has a unique offering of infrastructure, real estate, and technology. Besides access to the latest insights and research and our extensive network of local experts, PATRIZIA benefits from decades of experience in infrastructure. For 24 years, PATRIZIA Infrastructure has invested some EUR 7 billion in debt and equity in over 110 infrastructure investments worldwide.

We have invested in making an impact, ensuring that modern infrastructure addresses future transport, energy and water supply requirements while fulfilling the need for social and affordable housing, efficient logistics and attractive community spaces. Two themes characterize our infrastructure investments. First, they are physical assets that provide a public service. Second, there is a strong ESG focus.

A recent example of how we support decarbonization is Biomet. This Italian company that turns urban and agricultural waste into biomethane and then into bio-LNG (liquified natural gas) for use by trucks. PATRIZIA Infrastructure recently purchased an 80% majority stake on behalf of clients.

Compared to diesel, bio-LNG can cut fuel costs by up to 30% and CO2 by at least 20% while delivering a 90% reduction in NOx (Nitrogen Oxides, a family of poisonous gases) and particulate matter emissions. Bio-LNG ensures that trucks have a clean, low-carbon alternative to fossil fuel.

Value in waste

Biomet is only one of the energy solutions PATRIZIA offers. We are also invested in geothermal district heating in Norway, while our Etzel energy storage facility in Germany is actively testing the conversion and long-term storage of hydrogen on a commercial scale using existing infrastructure.

Such real assets also offer an attractive inflation hedge to investors, with long-term inflation-linked income streams. And we expect some real asset sectors, such as renewable energy, data centers and social care, to offer income growth beating inflation in the mid-term. Our approach allows investors to participate in and benefit from the global energy transition.

AT PATRIZIA, we provide a broad product choice in real assets to our clients, with the added benefits of risk diversification and resilient returns. Our global real assets selection help clients diversify their portfolios and is backed by largely inflation-linked income streams.

The smart new quarter

Spandau was once notorious for a prison overlooking the Havel River and a misleadingly named 1980s English pop band. Today the Berlin district is transforming from an industrial landscape into a new type of urban living. The now closed Tegel Airport is being redeveloped into a technology center, the Urban Tech Republic. The impact is reimaging surrounding areas.

The Havelufer Quartier, managed by PATRIZIA, consists of 13.6 hectares near Am Maselakepark. The site is an easily accessible 16 kilometers from central Berlin. When finished in 2025, it will be a waterfront city with 1,800 living units of traditional housing and a significant proportion of micro-living, senior-living, co-living, and affordable housing.

The quarter will incorporate various tenant facilities and communal spaces – from yoga rooms and DIY workshops to bike sharing and urban farming designed to create a better social and environmental place. The area is also designed to be car-free.    

London, United Kingdom

Mahdi Mokrane

Head of Global Investment Strategy, Research & Investment Solutions

About the author

Mahdi Mokrane is the Head of Investment Strategy & Research at PATRIZIA. He joined the company in 2020 after six years at LaSalle Investment Management in London, where he was Head of European Research and Strategy and a Member of its European Management Board. Before joining LaSalle, he worked at AEW Europe, where he was Head of Research and Strategy and a member of the company’s European investment committee as well as the global securities allocation committee. He also worked closely and extensively on real estate debt and equity transactions in both UK and Continental European markets.