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Waterfronts: being competitive by revitalizing the cities….
If only it were that simple
What is waterfront revitalization?
- Purpose of waterfront revitalization
- Advantages of waterfront competitiveness
- Disadvantages of waterfront competitiveness
Could Lebanese waterfronts come to a point to join the worldwide map of competitive waterfronts?
What is waterfront revitalization?
Water was an important natural resource in the growth of early settlements. By having various features -a defense element, a source for agricultural production and trade, a means for transportation and industrial uses- water offered many advantages for cities. Therefore, locations that existed on water’s edges, especially natural and protective harbors, became favorable sites for the foundation of ancient cities. So, contrary to contemporary condition, throughout the history, there was a close and integrated water-city relation.
The Waterfrontis the area of a town or a city alongside a body of water, usually waterfronts are meant to be the image of the city..
Waterfront revitalization has been the most remarkable urban development attempt in the world during the last two decades. Bruttomesso defines waterfront revitalization as a “genuine urban revolution”. (Bruttomesso 1993, 10) Waterfronts had experienced the most radical urban revitalization of 20th century cities by having transformation in their physical layout, function, use and social pattern. As most of the world’s big city centers are located on water’s edge, revitalization of waterfronts referred to downtown development.
Waterfront revitalization emerges generally in port cities experiencing post industrial or post war transitions, where the obsolete industrial and commercial spaces and facilities on the waterfront undergo redevelopment into new mixed-use office and residential complexes, and accompanying upscale retail services, leisure areas, and public amenities.
Sometimes the redevelopment involves gentrification and the transformation of long standing blue-collar zones into middle and upper income enclaves, occupied by a mix of resident professionals and tourists.
As stated by Short, “What sells the city is the image of the city.” (Short 1996, 431) One of the reasons a city should be revitalized is to enhance its image.
City promotion and city branding
Almost every city now has a series of promotional pamphlets, posters and other cultural products communicating selective images of the city as an attractive, hospitable and vibrant international city in which to live and work In fact, city promotion has a long history as one of the basic tools to attract people and money, such as visitors, immigrants, firms and new investment, to cities for economic development purposes.
Physical renovation and flagship developments Physical environment provides the tangible basis of city attractiveness. It not only provides the basic functionality of a city but also gives it character. Superb physical environment is in itself an important element in attractiveness, while physical decay and derelict land have severely detrimental effects on it. In addition, physical environment is expected to play
an important role in city marketing by providing a material expression to the city images that city branding attempts to create. For example, the image of a city as a “vibrant” and “cosmopolitan” place that city branding is trying to deliver can be realized in the physical form of the buildings and public places that visitors encounter in the city.
Culture-led and event-driven urban regeneration
Although cultural elements were sometimes included in public urban intervention, they have generally been adopted essentially as a welfare service, in which the main concern was to provide wider social groups with access to an artistic and cultural heritage, and opportunities to express themselves in the society, they are regarded as an effective tool to boost urban tourism, which generates spending and creates jobs, in the hope that a substantial number of jobs would be created indirectly by cultural investment in the form of jobs that serve visitors and audiences in restaurants, shops and hotels.
Another reason is the widely-perceived potential of cultural elements in enhancing city image and attractiveness. In fact, in many successful cases where considerable enhancement and improvement of city image were achieved, so-called “culture-led” policies were a central feature in the strategies. Behind this was a widely-shared assumption that culture possesses a strong attracting power over highly-skilled and creative workers, and that attempts to persuade these people to locate in certain cities will be aided if they are associated with arts, culture and entertainment. Cultural infrastructure, such as theatres, museums, and galleries, acts as a powerful magnet for creative people by offering attractive lifestyle opportunities.
In addition to remaking the urban image, revitalization of urban waterfronts is also important in the economic growth of cities. This would put the city on the worldwide competitive cities map.
But this does not come free from disadvantages:
Though the cultural infrastructure is an essential key, some cities end up by losing their historical identities by over competing. Plus, an excessively commercial-tourist functions could be also an issue; domination of these functions over residential and productive ones are an important risk. Because, these areas are usually used a few hours a day and in the weekends. While about the project area is done planning, in order to provide long term use of this area should be also added residential use as an extra commercial-tourist. Plus the real estate property value will increase dramatically which makes it impossible for low income persons to participate in the city and this would lead to more social class’s segregation.
Could Lebanese waterfronts come to a point to join the worldwide map of competitive waterfronts? And to what extensions?
The Lebanese waterfront has started to join the worldwide map of competitive cities, especially the city of Beirut where the solidere planning of the city, started to shape it with a new identity and new goals: though the trials to renovate and to restore parts of the architectural language of the inner city, the new waterfront aka the zaytoouna bay project is presented as a new city in Beirut, besides that a various amount of skyscrapers hitting the sky of Beirut which are somehow different from its history, some of the old historical monuments are to be demolished and new building are to immerge.
In my opinion, cities have to aim for worldwide competitiveness but on the other side, a city should also maintain its historical face which also helps in promoting the image of the city. To be worldwide competitive, a city must not erase its past and only plan futuristic and technologically powerful cities, the history of city along with it being contemporary can also boost its economy and lead it to the competitiveness.
- Dalla Longa, R. (2010). Globalization and Urban Implosion Creating New Competitive Advantage. Springer Heidelberg Dordrecht London New York.
- Krugman, P (1997). Pop internationalism. The mitt press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, London, England.
- Sakr, E (2012). Waterfront City project promises to create more jobs. Daily star (2012) retrieved on 4/5/2014 from:
- Giovinazzi, O. & Moretti, M. (2010). Port Cities and Urban Waterfront: Transformations and Opportunities. TeMALab Journal,
Retrieved on: 05/05/2014 from:
www.tema.unina.it ISSN 1970-9870 Vol 3 - SP - March (57 - 64)