Re­vamp­ing the Mother City

Plan to re­gen­er­ate city’s ur­ban sprawl could cre­ate a new econ­omy

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - LYNNETTE JOHNS

UR­BAN re­gen­er­a­tion has be­come a catch­phrase in Cape Town over the years, and for the peo­ple of Barcelona it has meant in­vest­ment, in­ner city hous­ing and the op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate a new econ­omy.

The Cape Town Part­ner­ship, which cel­e­brates its 10th an­niver­sary this year, has made the city cleaner, greener and safer lead­ing to R20 bil­lion worth of in­vest­ment, but one of the big is­sues re­mains how to get poorer peo­ple liv­ing within the city.

In cel­e­brat­ing their an­niver­sary the part­ner­ship in­vited Jordi Sacristan, the mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor for the 22@Barcelona ur­ban re­gen­er­a­tion project, to share views on how his city had tur ned an ob­sta­cle into an op­por­tu­nity.

Sacristan, who trav­els ex­ten­sively, said he was im­pressed with the work done by the Cape Town Part­ner­ship and Cape Town was a city he would en­joy liv­ing and work­ing in.

Barcelona and Cape Town are both hemmed in by sea and moun­tains and have a sim­i­lar cli­mate, but un­like Cape Town, Barcelona had peo­ple liv­ing in shacks on the beach. The sea was a no-go area for the rest of the city.

It also had a sprawl­ing neigh­bour­hood with no parks or de­cent in­fra­struc­ture, that had sprung up around fac­to­ries dur­ing the in­dus­trial revo­lu­tion. But as Poble­nou fac­to­ries closed so too did the eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties. Many home­less peo­ple moved into the empty fac­to­ries which cov­ered 200 hectares. By then many of the res­i­dents were pen­sion­ers. To­day Poble­nou, with its uni­ver­si­ties, cor­po­ra­tion hous­ing and open pub­lic spa­ces, is the big­gest re­de­vel­op­ment project in a Euro­pean city, in a city where land was in short sup­ply.

He says it is im­por­tant for cities want­ing to em­bark on ur­ban re­gen­er­a­tion to get the buy-in from the pri­vate sec­tor, to cre­ate de­bate and to de­velop a phi­los­o­phy, even if it means, as in the case of Barcelona, the process ran for four years.

One model they shied away from was the “Olympic vil­lage” model, a dor­mi­tory town built for ath­letes for the 1992 Olympics. The idea they came up with, to re­zone fac­to­ries into mixed use, set them on a winning ticket. It’s this strat­egy Sacristan says that Cape Town should look at.

It also changed the in­dus­trial area of Poble­nou from a prod­uct of the in­dus­trial revo­lu­tion to an area em­brac­ing the knowl­edge revo­lu­tion as the city con­cen­trated on lur­ing knowl­edge-based in­dus­tries like me­dia, in­for­ma­tion com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy, de­sign and med­i­cal tech­nol­ogy. They also placed an em­pha­sis on re­search and de­vel­op­ment.

Sacristan says the en­tire sys­tem works har­mo­niously as the uni­ver­si­ties link up with the in­cu­ba­tors, the SMMES and the big cor­po­ra­tions.

Fac­tory own­ers were given the op­por­tu­nity to change their zon­ing from In­dus­trial (22A) to ser­vices which im­me­di­ately in­creased the value of fac­tory and land, the city would then al­low a 50 per­cent in­crease in den­sity. The own­ers then gave the city a third of the land and money for in­fra­struc­ture.

“It was a win-win sit­u­a­tion. The city was able to im­prove con­di­tions for every­one,” Sacristan said.

How­ever, res­i­dents were hes­i­tant at first, con­cerned that the de­vel­op­ment would change their way of liv­ing. Sacristan said it did, for the bet­ter.

Peo­ple now have places to re­lax and party and 42 000 new jobs have been cre­ated. State-ofthe-art build­ings rub shoul­ders with old re­stored build­ings while other new build­ings have kept as­pects of the old in a way to hold on to his­tory.

They have also used the op­por­tu­nity to in­tro­duce ground­break­ing heat­ing and cool­ing sys­tems.

PIC­TURE: BREN­TON GEACH

HAR­MONY: Jodi Sacristan from Barcelona is ready to share ideas for ur­ban re­gen­er­a­tion.

WIN-WIN SIT­U­A­TION: Re­zon­ing fac­to­ries into mixed-use ar­eas put Barcelona on the right track.

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