Successful collective interventions to ‘future-proof’ town and city centres

Urban stakeholders are increasingly realising the importance of collective action in attempts to ‘future proof’ town and city centres, to ensure that ‘their’ centre retains an important role in the economic and social life of associated communities.  Such collective actions, often implemented under the aegis of urban management partnerships (UMPs), raise some key questions for these organisations: what type(s) of collective interventions are the most effective; and how to create sufficient support for them? 

In 2017-18, a research project, led by the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences and funded by Shopping Tomorrow (a Dutch retail and e-commerce think-tank), which comprised an expert group containing a number of IPM researchers and members, tried to answer these questions.  Specifically, the research – which analysed a variety of different types of interventions in 21 towns and cities across the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK – sought to identify and illustrate the factors that underpin successful collective interventions aimed at ’future-proofing’ town and city centres.

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What is Area Based Collaborative Entreprise?

Los Angeles Fashion District. A case of place-based business collaboration. Image by Dr. Blofeld – openstreetmap.org, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10368737

by Steve Milligton

Area Based Collaborative Enterprise concerns the ways in which local entrepreneurs join forces and form collectives to stimulate business growth and innovation, and to create a more attractive business environment.  A clear example in a UK context would be a Business Improvement District.

The project ABCities is funded by INTERREG, a programme aims to help regional and local government to develop and deliver better policy by creating opportunities for sharing solutions to ensure government investment, innovation and interventions lead to integrated and sustainable impact for people and place, by embedding new guidance and measures within existing policy for area based economic development.

The challenge, therefore, is not necessarily poor policy, but a concern about the mechanisms and techniques used by state institutions to deliver place based policy.

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Co-operative place-making in Rochdale

Rochdale Pionners Museum

Guest article by Cécile Berranger

With growing concern about global inequality, there has been an international resurgence of co-operative and community-focused projects and initiatives. The UK, however, offers a particularly interesting context.  Subject to prolonged austerity measures, the capacity of local government to intervene in local development has been drastically undermined. With growing inequality and a pressing need to fill the gaps in under-served communities, local authorities in many places are beginning to abandon their paternalistic top-down approach, and to experiment with new and alternative organisational forms of place management.

Increasingly Business Improvement Districts are taking over responsibility for town and city management, with over 300 now established. There are 471,000 social enterprises across the country, employing 1.44 million people[1], and a network of 26 designated social enterprise places[2], whereas Scotland is advocating Community Improvement Districts[3].  Most celebrated, perhaps, is The Preston Model[4], developed by Preston City Council and the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES), which has reformed local government procurement to enable key locally embedded “anchor” institutions to run local services. The model is designed to recapture investment and circulate local wealth within the local economy. Where gaps in provision remain, CLES suggests the formation of new worker co-operatives.

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Report on the 6th Corfu Symposium on Managing & Marketing Places

Photographer: Ian Southerin, Location Photography
Photographer: Ian Southerin, Location Photography

by Dr Heather Skinner

We have recently said goodbye to all the delegates who attended this year’s 6th Corfu Symposium on Managing & Marketing Places. What am amazing group of people, all inspired to discuss various aspects of place management and marketing.

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Citizen Participation in Berlin: Haus der Statistik

Citizen participation Haus der Statistik
Haus der Statistik in Berlin
Image: De-okin (talk) 19:15, 4 March 2010 (UTC) – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9650987

by Prof Ares Kalandides

I have been researching Citizen Participation in urban development in Berlin, since 2016, when the new Berlin state government coalition signed a contract, introducing participation as one of its leading principles. When I started, I was trying to understand what the provisions of the contract were and how that could be conceptualized. Conceptualization is not just an intellectual exercise (although it is that, too): it implicitly or explicitly guides the way we think, talk and act – and also the way we design policy.

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CounterCoin and the Environmental Impact of Venues

By Steve Collis from Melbourne, Australia – Manchester United Panorama, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24306858

Guest Blog article by James Scott Vandeventer

The recent report from the University of Keele, A Comparison of the Environmental Performance of Sports and Entertainment Venues for a Range of Percentage Capacities opens the debate about how to make ticketing at sports and entertainment venues work better. The report, commissioned by CounterCoin, points to ways that CounterCoin and other alternative currencies can make such venues address their environmental impacts, with relevance for Newcastle, Stoke, and beyond. In particular, by helping venues approach full capacity, CounterCoin could help these venues avoid the unnecessary overuse of energy. The report begins to show the environmental benefits of CounterCoin, which are in addition to its clear social impacts. This piece reflects on the report and some of the implications it has for CounterCoin and other similar mechanisms for inclusion.

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Who really creates the place brand?

Easter in Corfu

by Dr. Heather Skinner

Skinner, H. (2018) ‘Who really creates the place brand? Considering the role of user generated content in creating and communicating a place identity’

Communication & Society, 31(4), pp. 9-24.

Some definitions the key concepts of Place Marketing and Place Branding are still unclear, and these concepts are still conceptualised variously in the extant literature as shown below:

1:         Place Marketing and Place Branding as separate and distinct constructs

2:         Place Marketing is part of Place Branding

3:         Place Branding is part of Place Marketing

4:         Place Marketing and Place Branding are separate constructs but can overlap

5:         Place Marketing = Place Branding

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How a Task Force might help English town and city centres


Dover Town Centre. Photo taken from Cannon Street.
Photo by Eluveitie – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18829651

by Simon Quin

The UK Government has announced that it is to fund the establishment of a High Street Task Force for five years to support the transformation of town centres in England.

During 2018, the Institute also worked closely with UK Government to tease out some of the underlying issues affecting town centre vitality and viability. There is a long history of policy-led responses to the challenges of town centres in the UK, from adaptations to planning policy in the mid-1990s  (“Town centres first” and the Sequential Test), through support for Town Centre Management and the bringing forward of legislation to permit Business Improvement Districts (2003 in England), then a government-supported review led by retail consultant Mary Portas (2011) to the establishment of Future High Street Forum chaired by a government Minister (2013).

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Eleusis2021 – Planning a European Capital of Culture

Eleusis as seen from the Archaeological Museum. Ancient ruins, chimneys and the harbour mark its landscape. Photo by the author.

by Prof Ares Kalandides

When Eleusis, a small industrial town in the vicinity of Athens, was appointed European Capital of Culture for 2021, people received the decision both with joy and surprise: Joy, because this town, once one of the most important ritual sites in ancient Greece and home to the goddess Demeter, was back on the map; Surprise, because industrialization has clearly left its mark on the town, whose landscape is marked by factory chimneys, large industrial complexes and a commercial harbour. However, the choice of the European Commission is not based on what the city is, but on what it can become according to the bid book. And it was the bid, with its promise of a “passage to EUphoria” that managed to convince the jury.

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Decision-making in place

Macclesfield

by Frank Olaniyi Fafiyebi

DECISION MAKING IN PLACE: GUT FEELING OR EVIDENCE?

When making decisions most managers look up and look around, relying on their support structures i.e. people close to them, not because of lack of experience but for the fear of not getting their decisions right. This act of looking up and looking around is important and it is the use of “Gut-feeling” when managers are faced with making decisions that (1) involve large capital, (2) have significant impact on the long-term plan of their organisations and (3) involves public exposure. Place managers like their counterparts in other managerial areas make decisions daily.  In place management, managers make decisions about places, particularly the public realm such as town and city centres, ensuring effective collaboration with all stakeholders, policing the centres and improving infrastructural outlook of the places they manage. Place managers by their decisions make a critical contribution to the thriving of places, and those decision impacts on people’s everyday lives in places.

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