As the world progresses out of the global financial crisis, all eyes are on Asia. The region has consistently outpaced the rest of the world in terms of actual, and forecast, economic expansion. As education improves and wealth increases, rapid consumption drives growth even further.

The upshot of all of this is that Asian cities are booming. By 2030, more than 55% of its population will live in urban areas, according to the Asian Development Bank. There are currently 14 megacities in Asia Pacific (cities of more than 10 million people) – this is set to reach 20 by 2020, which will account for 60% of the world’s total. JLL’S recent research into global cities highlights how these Asian cities are leading the pack in terms of commercial attraction, with the region boasting the largest proportion of high-growth cities globally.

The definition of a city’s success and competitiveness has changed radically over the past decade, and is no longer reliant on traditional measures of skills and growth forecasts. Multiple factors are now in play, including physical and carbon footprints, governance models and the quality of life and culture. It’s becoming increasingly necessary for mature cities to respond to new competition with innovative reinventions and large-scale transformations, while emerging cities must plan and create infrastructure, develop entire new CBDs and balance commercial requirements with the social and cultural demands of its citizens.

To facilitate such swift change, real-estate players are stepping up to the fold. They are establishing innovative financing models, creating partnerships to deliver city infrastructure and enabling sweeping transformations that are vital not only for citizens, but for attracting investors and businesses.

A prime example of an Asian economy leading the way in radical urban change is the Philippines. The archipelago is creating thousands of jobs through the development of Clark Green City (CGC), a 9,450-hectare master development plan located around the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga, a province about 80 kilometres away from Metro Manila. The green city will be developed in three phases over the next five decades and will feature a government centre, a central business district, an academic district, an agri-forestry research and development area, and a wellness and eco-tourism district.

A recent quote from Arnel Paciano Casanova, president and CEO of the Bases and Conversion Development Authority, the organization behind the city’s development, sums up both the challenges and opportunities for the region’s cities. “The sub-special economic zones of Clark remained undeveloped for so many years. At the same time, we saw the challenges here in the capital of Metro Manila – too much congestion, which makes the city quite unsustainable – and there was really a need to help ease the pressure and provide more opportunities for growth.”

The scale of growth in Asia Pacific will dramatically change the landscape of the region; the question we all have to ask ourselves is: are we ready?

Author: Jeremy Sheldon, Managing Director of Markets, Asia-Pacific, Jones Lang LaSalle, Hong Kong SAR

Image: A construction workers works on an office building in Jakarta, Indonesia, April 2, 2008. REUTERS/Supri Supri