Heritage-led regeneration to fall back in love with our historic centres

Heritage-led regeneration to fall back in love with our historic centres

The importance of connecting local actors and creating the right entrepreneurial framework

Despite Covid, we still remember how nice it is to wander in a historic area in awe of old buildings, ancient monuments, traditional shops…But sometimes, these areas are affected by abandonment, poverty, insecurity, lack of services. Locals and tourists alike might fall out of love with the city centre, become unaware of the beauty and potential opportunities they hold! That is why, with many European partners, led by our member Lisboa Enova (the Energy and Environment Agency of Lisbon) we are currently looking into how to regenerate Historic Urban Areas (HUAs) while preserving their unique cultural and social identity and the environment.

Recently, the new HUB-IN paper “State of Play of European Historic Urban Areas” highlighted how innovative and entrepreneurial initiatives can contribute to heritage-led regeneration in a historic urban setting. The paper shows the different routes that can be taken to use material and immaterial heritage to regenerate Historic Urban Areas. It also presents 15 success stories from different cities…some of which are among our members. Keep reading to discover them…and maybe add them to your “must-see” list!

NOD Makerspace – Bucharest

NOD Makerspace was initiated by a collaboration of 25 small entrepreneurs in partnership with large companies and providers. Together, they turned an old and abandoned cotton factory in the city of Bucharest (Romania) into 21 workshops, a fab-lab and a co-working facility. The space offers support to small entrepreneurs in the creative industries to prototype and market their ideas. It is also home to the first and only materials library in South-East Europe, which contains over 2500 samples of material and aims to educate about types of materials and their uses. NOD Makerspace also manages a public centre for meetings, debates and civic engagement. Currently, it has 350 members and is home to over 40 start-ups in a wide range of creative industries.

Beato Creative Hub & Largo Residencias – Lisbon

Beato Creative Hub is an initiative of the municipality of Lisbon, designed and led by the non-profit incubator Start Up Lisboa, to accelerate local development and enhance urban, economic and cultural regeneration in the district of Beato, a socially and economically disadvantaged area of the city. The City Council invested around 20 million euros in acquiring an 18 buildings complex from the Central Government and on infrastructural, renovation and maintenance works. Startup Lisboa brought in partners and residents who develop innovative projects on the site and invest in (re-)building part of the infrastructure. In return, these organisations do not have to pay rent until their initial investment is recovered. Thanks to the involvement of international partners, the city managed to connect local and international stakeholders. The hub is estimated to create three thousand new jobs.

Largo Residências is located in the Intendente neighbourhood in Lisbon. Intendente was the old ceramic district that became abandoned and went into decay following the closure of the traditional ceramics factories in the second half of the 20th century. A local cultural association named SOU decided to step in and give the district back to its community. Together with some locals, they set up a cooperative and started to undertake artistic activities in the area. Nowadays, Largo Residências operates a hostel, a hotel, an artist-in-residence, a café and a shop in a former ceramic factory. The building now functions as a community hub but linked with the whole city thanks to an extensive network of partners, ranging from the local municipality to NGOs and non-profit organisations.

Sargfabriek – Vienna

Vienna’s Sargfabrik was a coffin factory constructed in the late 19th active until the 1970s. Following its abandonment, a group of citizens interested in communal housing project purchased it in 1989 and renovated it with a group of architects. Today, the building has 73 residential units with several communal spaces and facilities. They have a strong focus on social equality and integration: not only they set up a social fund to assist those with less financial means with the payment of their rent, but part of the residential units is reserved for temporary living and offered to refugees or those in need of social housing.

Darwin – Bordeaux

In Bordeaux, “Evolution Group” a collective of citizens with a strong vision of ecological sustainability, together with a local association turned an old military site into Darwin, a social, creative and green economy hub, and managed to mobilise the local community in the process! Currently, Darwin covers an area of 22.000 m², incorporating among others a business incubator, co-working spaces, ecological stores and restaurants, a skate park, childcare facilities, an experimental secondary school, and space for events. In addition, the area acts as a living lab for new (urban) farming techniques like aquaponics and micro-gardens. All buildings owned by Evolution Group are rented out with a Green Lease, a legal provision that makes the environmental and energy performance of a building, and ways to improve on this, subject of the contract between owner and tenant.

Soho Art District – Malaga

The SOHO Arts District is a cultural and commercial area situated within Malaga’s Ensanche Heredia neighbourhood. Once a thriving commercial area, Ensanche Heredia suffered from deterioration, marginalization, and criminality. A group of residents had the idea of transforming it into a cultural district and formed the Soho Málaga Citizen Association. They started cultural projects and managed to involve various public authorities and private stakeholders in developing interventions to regenerate the area. They map empty buildings in an Online Real Estate Listing, created a Bank for New Business Ideas to stimulate entrepreneurial activity. Furthermore, a branding strategy was designed for marketing the area both nationally and internationally. Ensanche Heredia is now a creative district and a touristic hotspot in the city!

Source: Sara Giovanini


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