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City centre revitalisation policies: training event - Ljubljana, 7 December 2023

On 7th December 2023 the third workshop of the Active Cities for EU project was held in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Organized by the Association of Urban Municipalities of Slovenia, the workshop tackled participatory processes in city centre revitalisation policies.

The main purpose of the workshop was to highlight the importance of public participation and stakeholder engagement in the preparation and implementation of policies for the revitalisation and management of urban centres, and to strengthen the capacity of municipal officials to implement participatory processes.

In the first part of the workshop, project partners and municipal representatives were introduced to practical examples of city centre revitalisation policies and participatory processes on mobility, vacant commercial spaces and the economy. A discussion followed, where the workshop participants shared their experiences and discussed and identified the challenges of each participant city. Those challenges that were identified as the most important served as starting points or sub-themes for the second part of the workshop.

The second part of the event was a practical workshop using the World Café method. Four main themes were addressed on how to revitalise city centres using participatory approaches, namely (1) quality of life in historic city centres (pedestrians, traffic, parking), (2) economy, vacant commercial spaces and tourism (services, amenities, networks), (3) communication (collaboration, city marketing / branding), and (4) culture and events in the public space.

The conclusions of the workshop underlined the importance of cities working together with different stakeholders. Transport plays an important role in quality of life. Affordable public transport needs to be strengthened in order to achieve more attractive and less congested urban centres, taking into account the needs of the inhabitants of the urban centres themselves and the economy. Solutions such as temporary street closure measures that can become permanent street closures, speed limits, restrictions on morning and afternoon traffic near schools or the introduction of pedi buses, and the promotion of cycling to school for children have been put forward. Heat islands are also a growing problem in cities and it is important to implement measures to strengthen the climate resilience of cities.

Concerning the economy, vacant commercial spaces and tourism, the key problems identified were the decline in turnover in shops in city centres, the presence of shopping centres on the outskirts of the city or even near old town centres, which often attract the attention of consumers, and the lack of involvement of property owners in city centres. Stakeholders identified rent subsidy measures to encourage the rental of premises and the introduction of a property tax as solutions. Part of the discussion also focused on the offer of shops and cafés in city centres. Cities should have a say in shaping the offer, which is easier in cases where a certain proportion of commercial space is publicly owned.

Representatives from different countries pointed to strict cultural heritage protection regimes as an obstacle to the development of city centres, which entail higher costs for investors and greater restrictions on the disposal of real estate. Participants agreed on the need to find a healthy balance between cultural heritage protection and economic activities.

Tourism is often an important resource that sustains life in city centres, but it can also have negative consequences. Participants at the workshop felt that cities should first and foremost be concerned about the quality of life of their citizens, and only then about the development of tourism.

The work of city managers, who manage communication and contacts between the city administration and entrepreneurs and residents, was highlighted as a good practice. City managers can be involved in setting opening times, delivery periods, coordinating events and city branding.

Communication with stakeholders was identified as one of the most important actions. Stakeholders highlighted included residents, businesses (shops, restaurants), public institutions and visitors. Examples of good practice in communicating with residents before public events were highlighted, thus linking the workshop to the field of culture and events.

In this area, the coordination role of cities or city managers needs to be strengthened so that events are better timed and located. In the historic city centres, adequate event infrastructure needs to be put in place to reduce costs for organisers. The aspect of sustainability was frequently raised, through waste minimisation and the coordination of public transport with events.

Participants agreed that a vibrant city centre means more visitors and therefore more economic activity. It was pointed out that participatory processes in this area are not only about information, but also about the possibility for stakeholders, e.g. residents and city businesses, to influence the implementation of programmes.

The workshop was conducted and moderated by the NGO IPoP - Institute for Spatial Policies.

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workshop report
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IPOP presentation
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