Europe and Project Department
Servizi > Ufficio Europa - Agenzia Eurodesk > Funded Projects > U.R. Impact - URBACT IV

The beginning of U.R.Impact: two months of study visits around Europe!

The "U.R. Impact" project, part of the European URBACT program, got underway before the summer. The first project actions took the City of Cinisello Balsamo around Europe and today we tell you how.

The first stop was Malmo, Sweden, where we participated in the URBACT Summer University from August 28 to 30. It was three very intense days: with more than 500 participants, the initiative included workshops and other training moments to deepen the concept of urban regeneration, confront different realities and discover useful tools to plan actions and involve stakeholders. The approach promoted by URBACT, in fact, hopes for a dynamic and collaborative process among municipalities, which makes confrontation its wealth and the key to action.

After Malmo, the Study visits began: in fact, Cinisello Balsamo holds the role of project leader, which is why Massimo Capano, representing the municipality, went together with Liat Rogel, the Lead Expert of the project, to all the municipalities that are part of this partnership to make an inspection and understand these realities and the starting point up close, which is essential to know how to structure the project and towards which goals to head.

The first city was Kamza, Albania, one of the most densely populated and growing since 1996. In addition to experiencing strong population growth, it is interesting to note that the majority of the population is between 30 and 50 years old.
Although it has a recent history, it has already faced complex challenges: in 2019, following an earthquake, it had to rebuild citizens’ homes; however, it has done so with a first-rate focus on green transition, inclusion, and social welfare.
Despite this, there is still a lot of work to be done, and it mainly concerns the integration of the Romanian and Egyptian communities. Among the goals du U.R. Impact, in fact, is to make the city polycentric by transforming abandoned or not-yet-used spaces into hubs for citizenship.

Next, we visited Bovec, a Slovenian town embraced by a beautiful landscape, which is its fortune but not only. The town, in fact, has two lives: a summer one, in which it is a coveted and popular tourist destination, and a winter one, in which it is the ghost of itself and also has to cope with the problem of emigration of the younger segment of its citizens.
This is perhaps the biggest problem, because in addition to the search for work that leads young people to move elsewhere, the problem arises even earlier than in other places because of the lack of schools: children, from the age of 15, are forced to move in order to complete their schooling. Because of this, Bovec faces an increasing trend in the aging population.
And even tourism poses questions to be solved: how to manage these flows of people without damaging the town’s natural resources? How to make it a sustainable tourism?

At the moment, a sports center is being built that aspires to be a resource for both tourism and opportunities for the town.
The goal that Bovec would like to achieve within the project is mainly about social impact: to create a community that convinces young people to stay in Bovec, that gives them a reason to do so, and to do so starting with sustainable tourism and highlighting the town’s history, culture and ability to revive.

In Spain, the municipality of Murcia, Spain’s seventh largest city by population: 465,000, is participating with us.
Murcia is thus a city rich in diversity, recording the presence of more than 146 nationalities. For this reason, it has been working for years on the social cohesion front and specifically to involve the suburbs and its inhabitants in the urban regeneration process. It has already participated in innovative projects to better redesign the city’s profile and, for the same reason, an investment is underway to improve the southern part of the city starting with connections. In fact, the underground railway is being extended for seven additional kilometers and a cultural arts center is being built.

Precisely because it is inclined to change, Murcia has joined with U.R. Impact to pursue a complex but fundamental purpose to true progress in the city: that everyone feels part of the community, is heard and feels represented by the urban regeneration choices being made. That no one, in short, is left behind, but that everyone feels an active part of Murcia.

The next stop was the town of Mértola, which is located in southern Portugal, on the border with Spain. Inhabited by 6,206 citizens, it covers 1292 square kilometers; yet, it is an immensely important place because of its cultural heritage and ecological relevance. Since the 1980s, in fact, Mèrtola has been fully committed to archaeological research: it boasts 14 museum centers where one can follow, step by step, its history from the Roman period onward, and it has been nominated to the UNESCO list for World Heritage Sites. In addition, the Vale do Guadiana Natural Park is home to alucue protected animal species such as the Iberian lynx and imperial eagle.
Despite all this, however, Mértola faces equally substantial challenges: an aging population, fragility of the territory due to climate change, the risk of desertification… This is why the city is working to attract stable residents to the area, promote development under the banner of environmental sustainability, and ensure the best possible quality of life, especially for the elderly population.
Mèrtola is aware of the difficult path ahead, is that the only way to meet these challenges is to approach urban regeneration with an inclusive and, above all, participatory approach.
Once again, the solution is to rethink the city together, as a community of inhabitants.

The city of Targu Frumos, Romania, is also determined to turn around the problems that plague it and is clear about the challenges it will face.
Its history is developed under the banner of trade and exchange, its inhabitants are predisposed to community relations and networking; with half of its area set aside for urban agriculture-which is overseen by the local Lipovan minority-it is a green city in which a farmers’ market is also developed, offering everyone the chance to buy local, fresh produce. It has set in motion building renovation plans for its many schools to implement energy efficiency, and the same can be said for the educational front, which sees plans in place to improve educational opportunities for young people. In addition, local companies-mostly specializing in road construction, but there is also a bakery factory-are strengthening the labor supply.
Still, problems remain: traffic, its congestion, and the difficult parking situation, also due to very heavy car use and the absence of public transportation and bicycle lanes; poor higher education provision that encourages travel to Iasi to pursue careers; and neighboring pig and chicken farms, which have consequences for the olfactory quality of the area.
By joining U.R. Impact, Targu Frumos wants to engage the entire urban community in addressing these challenges and to do so in a sustainable way.

After Targu Frumos, it was Broumov’s turn: it is located in the Czech Republic, on the border with Poland, but the rock face that frames it actually isolates it from the rest of the nation, although the town is in the heart of Europe.
Broumov has been heavily influenced by Benedictine monks, as can be seen starting with the famous monastery it houses, which it has carefully restored and given new life.Today, the place of worship is a vibrant cultural center of creativity and eagerness to learn that is active throughout the region.
Its history, however, is complicated: disrupted several times by historical events, the original inhabitants were first forcibly removed from the city, and later resettled there.
This obviously created a rupture in identity, which is now countered by the arrival of a new wave of residents and the connection with the rest of the region.
Today Broumov supports residents’ participation in city life in various ways with spaces dedicated to them where they can hold meetings or events and by organizing the municipality itself guided tours to discover the city’s heritage.
The shadow of the outflow of young people, the city’s commercial decline, and distrust between citizens and institutions, however, is the litmus test of all the work Broumov still needs to do on itself, starting with a collaborative, inclusive, citizen-oriented approach.

U.R. Impact then took us on a discovery of Bielsko-Biała, once "the city of a hundred industries," a socio-economic center with a precisely industrial base-where the IT and business services sectors are also flourishing-in Poland’s Silesian Voivodeship and nestled among breathtaking vistas.
Bielsko-Biała, following the war in Ukraine, faced new challenges: it took in 7,000 refugees, mainly women and children, and discovered the strength of its social welfare and inclusive community spirit, phenomena that also impacted local businesses.
The city also has a network of bicycle paths and funicular railways, but also a rich cultural activity, which in addition to festivals, museums, and theater performances boasts the Point 11 art gallery, an emblem of the link between culture and urban regeneration. Bielsko-Biała set in motion a municipal regeneration program from national directions that led to the redevelopment of Fabryczny Square, home of the Silesian Medical University, through the creation of a modern educational center.
Another source of pride for the city is the Cavatina Hall, a contemporary structure completed in 2021, made of steel and glass, which features a concert hall with a capacity of 650 people and a modern, eye-catching architectural structure with a distinctive spiral-shaped glass envelope. At the same time, a new construction, on the other hand, poses a problem: it is a shopping mall, which has altered the balance of the historic center, which was already facing demographic and post-Covid changes.
Bielsko-Biała is trying to cope with the issues by starting with improving the city center, which is to be revitalized, and the quality of life in it, drawing strength from the economic revival and social impact of these changes and promoting a local identity.

In Ireland, U.R.Impact has been joined by County of Longford, of which the town of Ballymahon is a part: a vibrant community with a strong participatory spirit, but with just as many complex challenges to manage starting with poor urban planning conditions and even worse connections. Unemployment rates are high and worrisome, the air faces a high level of deprivation. But the community actively participates and does not back down in the face of these considerable difficulties. Their strength is their cultural richness: in 2016 1/3 of the population had different nationalities, and the economic hardships are flanked by an enriching multiculturalism that puts up a united front.
Currently, the city is promoting initiatives to revive the convent and turn it into a hub for citizenship: resource plans for families, center for the elderly, youth gathering and co-working spaces, even social housing for those in need.
The Integrated Action Plan to be implemented with URBACT aims to go beyond the regeneration of urban spaces, building a governance model for the city’s needs and their evolution, aimed at addressing the future. Despite adversity, Ballymahon is highly resilient: its community is ready to actively participate in change.

Study visits to U.R. Impact partner places ended with Hannut as the final stop. Located in Belgium on the border with the Flaminian region, it is a rural town with picturesque landscapes and an economy built around agriculture: the atmosphere is quiet, and a bustling commercial street runs through the town . Its first-rate quality of life and well-being mean that its population growth is steady at this time, encouraged also by its strategic location between the villages and neighboring towns with which connections are really facilitated. In addition, projects are underway to increase mobility through bike lanes and make it a real hub for the surrounding realities.
In spite of this, the commercial street we have been talking about has suffered the damage following the Covid19 pandemic: many stores have been forced to close, and discussion tables are currently being held to restore it to the vital atmosphere that characterized it before 2020. After all, the city’s cultural ferment gives rise to continuous community-oriented initiatives.
The latter is central to the questions Hannut is handling: a new development area, which is expected to house a library, concert hall, and shopping mall, requires a choice about governance models between the public and private sectors, and that it is crucial to make while having the interest of the community at heart, which is superior to any other.

Another significant element is the active engagement of citizens in conservation, mobility, and energy issues initiatives: this has given rise to exemplary participatory design practices such as a mobility appBuy created by the youth of FridayForFuture and, again thanks to youth engagement, the design (now a reality) of a skate park.
It is not just the numbers that are being looked at: Hannut seeks to probe the social and qualitative carat generated by such initiatives, in order to plan for sustainable city growth in the place period. Existing practices are seen as a tool for the ultimate goal: change, positive and lasting, in the name of the environment and the city community.

After these months full of travel and site visits, we are ready to move on to the operational phase of the project. But first one last moment of collectivity: the City of Cinisello Balsamo will host representatives of the partner cities from December 4 to 7, to talk together about the work to be done and how to accomplish it. Because the heart of URBACT IV is precisely this: starting from common knowledge, individual points of view and comparison with others to create an Integrated Action Plan in which urban regeneration has value only if it generates a positive and participatory social impact.

Data ultima modifica: 4 December 2023
  • Via XXV aprile, 4 20092 Cinisello Balsamo

    Centralino 02660231

    Numero Verde 800397469

    WhatsApp 366.6229188

    Segnalazioni del cittadino

    Posta certificata:

    Codice Fiscale 01971350150
    Partita Iva 00727780967
    Codice Catastale: C707

    Sito registrato al Tribunale di Monza n. 2022