Affordable housing is one of the biggest challenges, that the market is facing right now, fueled by growing interest rates and inflation. Our cities need urban regeneration to provide thriving neighbourhoods and this needs to happen in close cooperation between the public and private. The retail parks replace shopping malls, the offices are not dead but changed and logistics are thriving – concluded local and international experts gathered at the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Poland Conference: REINVENTING NEIGHBOURHOODS, which was held on June 8-9, 2022, at the Raffles Europejski Hotel in Warsaw.
“A year ago, we talked about what the post-pandemic world will look like and a lot of things happened ever since. We have seen logistics, residential for rent and office transactions picking up. Just as we looked forward to a fantastic year, Russia invaded Ukraine, bringing inflation, population growth and incredible challenges for everybody. At the same time, people did not stop working, and the communities still live. We need to reinvent the neighbourhoods and make the urban footprint better for the people, in collaboration between public and private sectors and not forgetting the net-zero challenges,” said Soren Rodian Olsen, Managing Director of Logicenters at NREP and Chair of ULI Poland in his welcome.
“It seems like we are moving from one crisis into another, but at the same time we cannot lose sight of the long-term perspective and of the day-to-day perspective – inclusivity, equality, the climate, the design the investment, repurposing, private and public collaboration,” agreed on Lisette van Doorn, Chief Executive Officer, ULI Europe.
Marco Dall’Orso, the renowned urban regeneration expert, shared his experiences in the opening keynote presentation: “Studying the past is important because cities follow trajectories that can lead to prosperity or poverty. Understanding where we come from helps us understand the present and to prepare for the future. Knowing what ingredients are at play in creating inclusive and diverse communities, we create them, where they are naturally missing and change their destiny by providing them with a collective sense of purpose. Creating a thriving urban community is not a “switch” and it is rarely a quick revolution. It is a long-term journey or better, a state of mind, an attitude, a continuous effort toward the pursuit and maintenance of a virtuous condition. Flexibility and adaptation are the only protection from uncertain futures. The winners of the future are the future-ready communities.”
Jens Krammer Mikkelsen, Director of Urban Development at NREP and former Lord Mayor of Copenhagen, presented the steps of transformation of the capital of Denmark, which in the 1980s had an unemployment rate of 17.5 percent, a growing elderly population and huge budget shortfalls and is now an example of a city that many want to emulate: “Transforming the city is not a quick fix but a long haul. Lessons learned from the process: Infrastructure is the key. Make public ownership transparent. Merge public entities and assets. Encourage national and local government collaboration. Secure the political alliance but minimize the political interference.”
Presentations were followed by discussions on various burning issues. How to make our cities and neighbourhoods provide a better quality of life, what benefits cooperation of the private and public sectors brings, and how urban space in Europe will change by the green transformation were the key issues discussed by an international group of urban planners, real estate experts and local administration in “Let’s do it together” session.
“In the collaboration between the public and private sectors the share of responsibilities became blurred, the complexity increased, and the challenges are higher – especially in the past couple of years. So how is it going to work in practice? First of all, let’s be frank. Then let’s educate ourselves and our communities so that the municipalities understand business processes and vice versa. Educate, but not persuade so that the person can make their own educated choice. My final tip for local government is to create a one-stop show for the business, integrating our services for the external partners,” summarised the discussion Katarzyna Gruszecka-Spychała, Gdynia vice-president for the economy.
“Something old, something new” was a session focused on how we can improve the overall experience the people have in the cities and pragmatic solutions with a focus on city development, ESG and decarbonization. “We can’t have buildings like we used to have in the past and we need to rebuild them. One of the reasons is that people love the old building, and it is worth doing it,” emphasized Ron Bakker, Founding Partner of London-based architecture firm, PLP Architecture. “Some of the buildings require renovation and restoration, and some structures in the cities do not function anymore and this is something with which the architects and urbanists will be dealing in the next decade. Preserving old buildings in the dense cities is the key, even if at the end of the process they are not recognizable anymore. We need new technologies and new materials and to design flexible enough to allow various future scenarios.”
Another important topic was the future of the CEE region and how to facilitate the cities to grow in the right direction. “Densification, transformation, mixed-use, and timber are the answer,” concluded Ondrei Chybnik, Founding Partner CHYBNIK+KRISTOF from Prague. “The population is growing rapidly and so are the cities in the region – the citizens are moving back from rural. Buildings in our regions, even those from the communistic era can still be transformed and refurbished into something contemporary. Mixed-use is essential and covid proved that the mono-functional areas are not good enough to survive the crisis. Timber structures are one of the answers to the question of how to recycle and grow sustainably, with a negative carbon footprint.”
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