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Reviving shrinking cities – innovative paths and perspectives towards livability for shrinking cities in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - RE-CITY (Reviving shrinking cities – innovative paths and perspectives towards livability for shrinkingcities in Europe)

Reporting period: 2018-10-01 to 2020-09-30

Previous research by the RE-CITY participants has pointed out a growing tendency towards decline in cities and regions in Europe and other parts of the world, and the severity of its persistence makes clear that shrinkage is a phenomenon that is likely to jeopardize the prosperity of European competitiveness. Crises like the Covid-19 pandemic and the refugee crisis even enhance these risks. While the downward spiral of decline has the same effects everywhere, future prospects are unclear when it comes to dealing with shrinkage. It becomes clear, that shrinkage has to be actively tackled by policy-making and development, in line with Europe’s 2020 Strategy.

RE-CITY proposes a perspective for the robust and positive development of shrinking cities, while supporting elements of economic prosperity, liveability, environmental sustainability, social stability and innovation. Therefore RE-CITY utilises international comparative research across disciplines (spatial planning, architecture, geography, economics, social sciences) to outline the concept, methods and strategic approaches towards revitalization of shrinking cities. By analysing case studies and development paths of shrinking cities innovative, integrated and sustainably sound solutions are investigated allowing for enhanced quality of life in the respective cities. RE-CITY is aimed to develop novel methods, training skills and applications for RE-CITY, including instruments for planning, monitoring, collaborating and developing the requirements of shrinking cities tailored to their specific conditions. RE-CITY comprises an equal balance of 16 academic and non-academic partners, who represent expertise in spatial planning, architecture, geography, economics and social sciences to provide a transdisciplinary view on the policies for and in shrinking cities.
Conceptualising Shrinking Smart (WP1) investigates the fundamentals, concepts, and paths for revitalizing shrinking cities in a novel way. It includes three individual research projects: a) Strategies for shrinking cities from historical perspective - path dependencies and learning from failures of the past; b) Shrinking (Smart): Comparative European perspectives and applicability; c) Coping with urban shrinkage: The roles of place attachment and social capital. First results from this work package include, identifying factors to define and recognise shrinking smart strategies, policy interventions and approaches as well as the role of place attachment in shrinking cities.

Work package 2 (Governing Shrinking cities) analyses the way processes, planning strategies and policies are steered, and which stakeholders/change agents are involved in shrinking cities. The three individual research projects in this WP are dealing with: a) Governance in shrinking cities and uncertainties in decision-making; b) Strategic planning and policy-making for shrinking cities; and c) Spatial (In)justice in Shrinking Cities: Insights from Post-Socialist Europe. Initial results from work package 2 shed light on the role of active citizens and the uncertainties of governance in a shrinking environment as well as the specific situation regarding the spatial injustice in Eastern Europe.

Greening/rightsizing shrinking cities (WP3) functions as a catalyst for new ideas and innovative methods in dealing with shrinking cities, and employs a paradigm shift from growth-centred planning to shrink sustainably. Again, three individual research projects are investigating a) The evolution of green space in shrinking cities: transition towards green infrastructure?; b) Regrowing Shrinking Cities in the longer term: Changing patterns of urbanisation and resilience following climate catastrophes; and c) Planning social housing and infrastructure in shrinking cities. Analysis of adaptation strategies in post-industrial cities in France. The results in this work package so far provide new insights in the role of green infrastructures in shrinking cities, both landscaping and technical installations, and their potential for resilience towards climate change.

The final thematic work package 4 (Regrowing shrinking cities) focuses on the strategies of shrinking cities, which were derived in order to turn around decline and induce new, more robust and place based development. The four individual research projects in this work package are: a) Building on knowledge and innovation: the role of green-economy in revitalizing shrinking cities. A comparative analysis between Mexico and Europe; b) Culture as a driver for social innovation: understanding the development of socially innovative art activities in shrinking cities; c) The potential impacts of European policies for shrinking cities in light of the pandemic, environmental and democratic challenges; and d) The role of migrants in revitalizing shrinking cities.

The Research and Training Programme (WP5) coordinates the local and, currently four network wide training events (Paris, Porto, Leipzig and Dortmund), with focus on skills in media production, environmental planning and climate change, land-use, governance and civic involvement as well as theoretical and methodological approaches. Furthermore, it supports the transfer of knowledge through practitioners acting as Talent Coaches. This approach is also strengthened by the close cooperation with the Stakeholders Committee comprising of high-ranking officials in local, national and international organisations. While the Management (WP6) ties the different activities together work package 7 (Communication and Dissemination) provides a detailed strategy for public outputs and publications including a dynamic social media presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and a Blog, as highlighted on the project website.
The bi-annual project meetings and workshops have developed into a platform for discussion between a wide diversity of actors from politics, science and development agencies establishing new networks and encouraging the exchange of ideas.

Parts of RE-CITY’s research results so far uncover, that shrinkage requires targeted policies and approaches in order to enhance the quality of life. Moreover, major challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the “refugee crisis”, have huge effects in particular for shrinking cities.
These preliminary results have recently been discussed with members of the Stakeholders’ committee. Collectively, RE-CITY findings point out pathways for shrinking cities to increase the competitiveness in key areas like resilience, economic development, and social wellbeing. These aspects are also highlighted in the publication of a handbook on shrinking cities currently edited and forthcoming in 2021.

RE-CITY has opened up the perspective for shrinking cities beyond the downwards spiral and it is extending the discussion across the disciplines of research, policy making, and planning practice. One of the main conclusions drawn from the project so far is the urgent need for more cross- and interdisciplinary research and training of experts to consider new aspects and incorporate additional expertise. The individual research projects cover a broad spectrum of topics, highly relevant for the quality of life in shrinking cities. Although the effects of current challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic and the refugee crisis may be strong for shrinking cites – by understanding these impacts the findings can be utilised for other cities as well.
First Training School in Paris
ESRs at Research Workshop in Dortmund
Second Training School in Porto
Second Research Workshop in Dortmund
Field trip to Grünau at Third Training School in Leipzig
First meeting with recruited ESRs in Paris
RE-CITY Consortium at Kick-Off in Kaiserslautern
Kick-Off-Meeting in Kaiserslautern
Third Trainiing School in Leipzig
ESR Research Colloquium in Dortmund
First Research Workshop in Paris