Property Industry Ireland, the organisation which represents businesses working in the Irish property and construction sector, has warned that Ireland's ability to attract and retain international investment is at risk if focus is not paid to ensuring our cities work. At the "Making Cities Work" conference in Dublin today, the PII says that as Ireland and the world become increasingly urbanised, the construction and property sectors will play an increasing role in ensuring that cities are attractive places in which to live, work and invest.

Andrew Griffin, director and founder of Urban Agency, says that good design can bring so much to city life, adding that a 100 year plan is what is needed for Dublin. He says the city is rapidly increasing its housing density levels and a sustainable plan will have to be worked out to make sure the extra population can actually fit in comfortably. He says that planners need to get away from the idea of the traditional three-bed semi to more sustainable, higher density city centre living. But he stresses the 100 year plan needs to be well researched and independent and not influenced by political concerns. Mr Griffin says that if only suburban estates continue to be built around the city, it will run out of space. He urges "long term" planning.

Peter Stafford, a Property Industry Ireland director, says that some areas of the city are working well, while others not so well. Problems include traffic congestion and he cites recent remarks that cycling in Dublin is "still only for the brave". Mr Stafford says cities need three things in order to run smoothly - infrastructure, good buildings and business clusters. He says that density is actually a good thing, adding that people who want to live in city centres may have to give up some dreams like having a big garden. But this can be substituted by good parks and open areas, he adds.

MORNING BRIEFS - Amazon has shown-off its first smartphone. It offers 3D visuals due to its four face-tracking cameras on its front. Chief executive Jeff Bezos announced the phone at a press event in Seattle last night. The launch comes at a time when Amazon's tablet sales appear to be on the wane, despite recent price promotions.

*** Profits at the Clontarf Castle hotel in Dublin surged to €1.8m in 2012 from €778,000 a year earlier as it cut costs. 
The Independent reports that the hotel, which is controlled by DID Electrical founder Gerry Houlihan, has seen room revenue increase along with a general improvement in the fortunes of Dublin's hotels.  The accounts for Clontarf Castle show that its gross profit was almost unchanged at just under €6.9m in the 12 months to the end of October 2012. 

*** A new "business model" for the European Union is needed if the bloc is to continue to flourish. An exit by the UK would leave it a "diminished world force", according to the EU's new ambassador to the US. David O'Sullivan was speaking at the Ibec annual lecture in Dublin last night. He said the EU is at a "critical moment in its integration history". He noted the EU was in the "midst of an institutional renewal that will set the direction of the next five years, with a new parliament, a new president of the commission and a new president of the council". He said it would be a "historic misfortune" if the UK continues to drift in the direction of exiting the EU.