Revamping the Mother City
Plan to regenerate city’s urban sprawl could create a new economy
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.
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.