Moulaert et. al (2003) see contemporary urban regeneration as a universal phenomenon aimed at promoting competitiveness. Using examples from the UK and other countries, briefly outline the key elements and impacts of selected regeneration projects and discuss the extent to which they corroborate or contradict this understanding.
Based on the research undertaken by Moulaert et.al (2003) into urban restructuring in European cities, the aim of this essay will be to explore the meaning of city competitiveness in the context of urban regeneration policies. It will also offer a brief examination and assessment of the reasons behind the shift of focus in urban policies from welfare led initiatives and considerations to projects encouraging entrepreneurialism with the aim to stimulate economic development. Using examples from several cities in the UK and Bilbao in Spain, the essay will focus on describing and analysing the key elements and impacts, which selected regeneration projects and with them the pursuit for competitiveness have had on cities. Finally the paper sets out to evaluate the extent to which those projects support or contradict the understanding that contemporary urban regeneration is indeed solely aimed at promoting competitiveness. Concluding with the suggestion that competitiveness is an elusive idea, where strive for prosperity in the new economy has been largely dependent on qualitative restructuring of the economy and the built environment. The deindustrialisation of British cities in the second half of the twentieth century had a devastating effect on urban life, bringing high levels of unemployment. The closure of industrial ports, shipyards, chemical plants and manufacturing factories also led to the desertion of the outdated buildings, which housed them. Furthermore the wealthier and more educated middle and upper classes started slowly migrating out of Britain’s industrial cities to rural locations and suburbs, leaving poorer, less skilled population in the cities (Jones and Evans, 2008). Increasingly the manufacturing industry moved to emerging industrial countries in the Far East and South East Asia, such as India, China, Korea and Taiwan, where labour and production costs were significantly cheaper and more efficient. This led to Western economies shifting towards the service, technological and financial sectors. These processes of globalization, changes in the patterns of demand and production, the emergence of new market-led economies and with them the emergence of the global cities, such as London, Paris and New York contributed to the development of new urban regeneration policies, sometimes referred to as Neoliberal policies. The new governance system often involves the process of deregulation and “privatisation” of urban policy-making characterised by the redistribution of powers and responsibilities away from the local governments to partnership agencies and a marked shift to entrepreneurialism (Harvey, 1998). Urban regeneration has played a central part in the urban policy change. However it becomes apparent that urban regeneration is a complex term and is often used in a variety of contexts. Some of its features are frequently linked to processes, which involve physical rebuilding or restructuring of run down city landscapes with the aim to generate economic revival and employment and to facilitate tourism, by attracting businesses and investments. Cities seeking to achieve these goals were therefore forced to compete with one another and more importantly within the new “knowledge economy” (Jones and Evans, 2008). In the last three decades governments have been convinced that the problems faced by cities are mainly structural and a direct result from the economic decline (Cochrane, 2007). In the attempt to reinforce the competitive position of their cities, local authorities often in partnerships with the private sector have undertaken large-scale urban development projects, such as...
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