Coronavirus emptied public spaces – but it can reinvent high street

With most local shops shuttered and online sales booming, it’s easy to imagine that coronavirus will deal a mortal blow to the high street. The images of empty public spaces that have come to define this crisis could be a warning of what life will be like after the lockdown, when people will fear crowds and social distancing will continue, either through self-policing orgovernment directive. But high streets have struggled in our globalised, post-industrial economy; out-of-town superstores with global supply chains sucked consumers away long before the rise of online retail. Although public transport will be hard hit by decreased commuting, fewer tourists and our fear of contagion, people will be more likely to walk to their local high street – or drive to one of the privatised, high-security “malls without walls” or business improvementdistricts. In other parts of the country where high streets are characterised by boarded-up shopfronts,mutual aid centres can also provide much-needed community hubs.