COVID-19: The Recovery will Happen in Public Space

Placemaking Week 2017 Speaker Spotlight: URBACT and the City Centre Doctor Project

Aug 2, 2017
Dec 22, 2017

Placemaking Week is just around the corner! We are proud to say that we have a dynamic and diverse lineup of speakers who are eager to share their stories and knowledge. To keep you informed about how the event is shaping up, we’re excited to begin a series of posts that will highlight speakers and session details.

As many of you know, our Call for Proposals brought us submissions from 65 countries, showing just how much the placemaking movement has transformed into a global platform. Now that speakers have been confirmed, every week we will highlight a new speaker or session just to give you a taste of what’s in store for Amsterdam. And believe us, there is a lot!

‍City Centre Doctor project - Park Urbana in Heerlen, NL

We’ll start by highlighting a pioneering organization in Europe—URBACT— that we are thrilled to have join us this year. An EU program that aims to strengthen cities by providing a network for urban solutions, URBACT has established itself as a convening force for placemaking. Sharing best practices, as well as a vision of better public spaces, URBACT’s City Centre Doctor program emerged in 2015 as an innovative new forum for inter-city collaboration on better urban spaces. Fitting under our Place-led Development & City Making conference theme, the unique program encourages the cooperation of local authorities, residents, and entrepreneurs in facing local challenges. As a matter of fact, URBACT has already been involved with a small town in the Netherlands, Heerlen, which has seen firsthand the benefits of convening for better places.

Before becoming a part of the URBACT City Centre Doctor program, the town of Heerlen was slowly coming to grips with the 1965 loss of its mining industry. Still fresh in the memory of the town's 87,000 inhabitants, the resulting economic and population decline took a serious toll on the town’s once-prosperous image. Yvette Petit-Theuws, one of the URBACT panelists participating at this year’s Placemaking Week, filled the role of city center coordinator in Heerlen while also serving as the coordinator of the URBACT Local Group.

These groups also collaborated with local organization HeerlenMijnStad (HMS) to re-think the center of the city. Today, a large downtown development, called the “Maankwartier,” is underway, with a train hub and new plans to turn the retail-heavy area from somewhere “to buy” into somewhere “to be.” Now that local representatives in the URBACT program have traveled to and learned from other City Centre Doctor cities, Heerlen is working on its own Action Plan, slated for a 2018 release. The opportunity to garner feedback from nine other cities, and to be exposed to best practices for different urban contexts has given Heerlen a starting point for how it hopes to transform its center. Ideas like updating street features and lighting, as well as expanding meeting and recreational spaces, are some of the likely strategies that will emerge for Heerlen after engaging with the City Centre Doctor program.

Petrinja, Croatia is another small European city looking to re-invigorate its town center. After a period of war, Petrinja suffered an economic downturn, much like Heerlen. Still in the context of its economic reconstruction, the city is continuing to repair damages and renovate historic facades. As a member of the City Centre Doctor program, Petrinja is also considering how this opportunity for reconstruction might also be a chance to go one step further—delving into sustainability and other cutting-edge issues. As a start, a 200 year-old Serbian Orthodox Church has caught the attention of locals, who are watching hopefully as the mayor and parish collaborate to fund its renovation. This stepping stone to future coalition-building bodes well for Petrinja’s plans for its town center.

During Placemaking Week, URBACT’s Urban Program Expert Sally Kneeshaw will moderate a workshop on the City Centre Doctor program alongside her colleagues Wessel Badenhorst, Lead Expert of the City Centre Doctor Project; Yvette Petit-Theuws, the City Centre Coordinator in Heerlen and Coordinator of the URBACT Local Group; and Marko Zlonoga, a member of the URBACT Local Group in Petrinja, Croatia. Members of the team will also participate in other talks and sessions during the core two days of the conference at Pakhuis de Zwijger.

URBACT’s stories of innovation are just the start. Placemaking Week will convene the conversation around many city-level transformations like those of Heerlen and Petrinja. By playing host to some of the world’s most creative placemakers, Amsterdam is sure to be a great place to talk about great places.

Make sure to register now for 2017's Placemaking Week taking place this October. This year Project for Public Spaces collaborates with partners in Amsterdam—STIPO, City at Eye Level, Placemaking Plus, and Pakhuis de Zwijger where the bulk of the event will be held—to host a dynamic program of sessions and workshops, where attendees will develop and share concrete strategies for advancing placemaking locally and globally.

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COVID-19: The Recovery will Happen in Public Space