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Effects of Regeneration in the Urban Core

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General Overview

Urban decay, usually associated with deprived areas, tends tend to be a characteristic of poorer communes, reflecting their low earning power and susceptibility to the higher unemployment rates associated with changes in the structure of the national economy (Skifter Andersen, 2003). The a feeling that buildings are physically falling into a state of decay particularly in some areas more than others, often results in an excrescence of dilapidated and vacant buildings. By remaining vacant, buildings are generally targeted for commercial signage and vandalism unless subjected to a population change or economic restructuring (McGregor and McConnachie, 1995; Skifter Andersen, 2003). The redevelopment of decaying, run-down or underused parts of urban areas with the intention of bringing new life and economic vitality is crucial in maintaining a market position (Bolton Council, 2009).

Redeveloping these structural units, however, may not be an easy task, as a set physical as well as casual mechanisms likely to be different in every area, are also accentuating the problem of urban decay. According to Skifter Andersen (2003), one of the major causes of urban decay is the decline of the local economy. The changes in the structure of the national and international economy can directly or indirectly influence the local economy as outlined in Haggett's Cumulative Decline Model (2001). Certain government intervention and planning policies with regard to the industry and alterations in the locational preferences of the industries to better equipped sites are also assumed to be among the primary causes of decline by increasing the gap between the core and periphery. Similarly, the population age structure in most Western countries is changing with an increasing number of elderly dominating the demographic chart (Commission on Growth and Development, 2008). This disinclination of the population is likely to remain in the highly urbanised areas resulting in a number of blight properties that are likely to fall into a state of disrepair if structural investment keeps lacking. Perhaps, following Myrdal's Cumulative Causation theory (1972) might help inject vigour into the local economy from the institutional set-up (Fujita, 2004). Nonetheless, this process of urban renewal, through which environmental quality redevelopments occur in derelict urban areas, is highly contested.

This chapter reviews selected literature that concerns the effects of regeneration in the urban core of a settlement with regard to the value enhancement and positive externality of building refurbishment while considering the social and economic implications.

Urban Regeneration

Urban regeneration most likely to take the form of public policy in order to regulate urban processes, attempts to improve the urban environment through renewal (Couch et al., 2003). Although seeming fairly simple and straightforward, Home (1982) describes the concept of urban regeneration as involving complex socio-economic, environmental and political issues, with no profession or academic disciple claiming control over it. Roberts (in Roberts and Sykes, 2000) defines urban regeneration as a vision which leads to the resolution of urban problems and which seeks to bring lasting socio-economic, physical and environmental conditions of an area that has been subject to change.

Broadly defined as a process that prevents the urban fabric from starting or continuing to deteriorate by improving the urban fabric, urban regeneration is fundamental to the structure plans established by the Malta Environmental and Planning Authority in 1998 and 2006. According to the Priority Actions Programme/Regional Activity Centre (PAP/RAC, 2004) of the Mediterranean countries, the aim of urban regeneration projects as a solution to this phenomenon in developed is to promote:

“return to the city, revitalise the city centre, restore activity in a fiercely competitive international context, and implement initiatives to improve the quality of the environment operating in a wide sense towards a smart growth”.

Such systemised and planned action concerning certain parts of a town would mean injecting new vigour into an area. Skifter Andersen (2003) argues urban regeneration would transform, strengthen and recreate places to act as a catalyst for further investments for the benefit of the local community. By concentrating public resources and private investments on specifically designated area may turn an area to a great appeal (Adair et al., 2000). However, urban regeneration is not only concentrated around property-led and retail-led regeneration but also through cultural regeneration to transform the city as a form of urban recreation (Evans, 2001). According to Evans (2001), arts and cultural industries can distinguish themselves by restoring identities and economies with other lifestyles.

Whilst Calxton and Siora (2008) recognise the retail sector as offering opportunities and employing a wide range of different socio-economic groups, they argue that retail-led regeneration appears to provide a key reconnection to economic opportunity by engaging in direct employment and additional investment for a community and its residents. Furthermore, Claxton and Siora (2008) sustain that the most successful developments are those supported by the local authorities where planning or economic development departments work together. On the other hand, Rubin and Taylor (2008) question the enormous institutional corporate power of certain chain stores that might have some influence on the planning system and in regeneration projects. According to them, the benefits from such regeneration are overstated as this type of regeneration creates an inverse system that extorts money out of the local economy resulting in serious consequences for small local businesses.

Pitkin (1963) sustains that as an important trait within various Mediterranean communities is the urban ethos, the city is depicted as a place of cultural richness, civilisation and civic pride (Leontidou, 2000). Strengthening this argument, Florida (2003) suggested that as social ethos is becoming increasingly dominant in most entrepreneurial and growing regions, it is attracting creative people to the city and accentuating the processes of gentrification. Additionally, Ley (2003) also accentuates the importance of cultural and lifestyle of the middle class, who value the preservation of the historic core and the utilisation of exceptional commodities. Bailey et al. (2004) suggests that culture-led regeneration has only been effective when associated with commercialised identities, thus stressing the need for economic investments and retail establishments. Hiller (2000) suggests that for waterfront regeneration with transformation of the urban environment with luxurious residences and gentrified neighbourhoods must be create jobs through a number of office towers as well as shopping centres, included in most projects.

As cities are never still, Lancaster (1995) had previously argued that they are places where people strive to overcome negative effects and create hope in the place that history has located them. According to Dunn (1998), the consumer culture might therefore encourage residents to disattach themselves from their particular area and associate themselves to the new global culture irrelevant of the location. Bailey et al. (2004), disagrees and argues that cultural forms of consumption can actively enhance and enliven local communities. Bailey et al. (2004) goes further by suggesting that it is the people who live in the city themselves have to engage in regenerating the city rather than the planning policies. Kantor et al. (1997), stresses the significance of local urban democratic conditions in creating inclusive governing that can influence the local community's ability to participate and have a reach in the business.

Gentrification

As defined by Kennedy and Leonard (2001), gentrification involves the processes of reinvestment and revitalisation to enhance the physical and socio-economic components of cities. In this relationship, higher income households settle in that settle in the area, upgrade the physical and socio-economic component of lower income residences. Smith (1987b, p.463), specifically stated that the crucial point with regard to gentrification is that:

"...it involves not only a social change but also, at the neighbourhood scale, a physical change in the housing stock and an economic change in the land and housing market. It is this combination of social, physical, and economic change that distinguishes gentrification as an identifiable process/set of processes".

Furthermore, Wyly and Hammel (1999, p.716) add that the process of gentrification complements:

"class transformation of those parts of the city that suffered from systematic outmigration, disinvestment and neglect, or neglect in the midst of rapid economic growth and suburbanisation".

Badcock (2001), argues that today the process of gentrification and restructuring have become so interrelated together that they have formed the broader transformation known as revitalisation. Furthermore, households of median and higher incomes generally value the preservation of the historic core and contribute to raising the area's ethos (Ley, 2003). Therefore, employment in the tertiary, quaternary and quinary sectors of production, usually associated with having a university degree, is a key indicator of gentrification according to Ley (2003). In other words, the post-modern lifestyles of consumption are the solution towards revitalisation of a location through the processes of gentrification. Consequently, the process of gentrification can be said to be the outcome of the range of responses to the new economic and social opportunities that arise from prior dispositions of the social classes (Bridge 2001).

On the other hand, Smith and Williams (1986) were particularly concerned with displacement and the side effects the middle class is having on the lower working class through the processes of gentrification. Although the extent of the problem is not agreed upon, Sumka (1979) argues that displacement of the working class through rent increases was undoubtedly a major issue. More recently, Blomley (2004) outlines that the social mix the processes of gentrification bring with them tend to expose the working classes to several equalities in the social hierarchy as interaction between the owners and tenants in gentrified neighbourhoods seems to be limited. Slater (2006) argues that this process can lead to social segregation and isolation when trying to revitalise a neighbourhood. Yet, according to Sigworth and Wilkinson (1967) the beneficial effects to the community through gentrification outweigh the issues of social segregation which can be resolved through several policies.

Ideal Scenario

In a society where the absence of building care culture is increasing, prompt maintenance would help make aging buildings less problematic to rehabilitate as it is often the case that such buildings are found in a state of disrepair with various safety problems. Throughout the 1970s, many of the European countries had already started emphasise the gradual renewal process of rehabilitation rather than focusing on the massive redevelopments simultaneously (Wood, 1991).

Thomas (1977), suggested that making way for redevelopment would give an opportunity to replace any substandard buildings, any clashes with regard to the land-use, as well as any environmental nuisance. Although in essence the process of redevelopment causes a lot of inconvenience as it dislocates people (Sumka, 1979; Smith and Williams, 1986; Blomley, 2004), redevelopment can help utilizing the full potential of a site as well as exploiting the beneficial effects to the community such as solving the problems related to social segregation (Sigworth and Wilkinson, 1967). Amongst the main problems that dominate the list for the issue of urban renewal, the lack of institutional planning (Adams and Hastings, 2001) and unfair reimbursements (Kam et al., 2004). This raises the question of whether it would be eloquent to redevelop rather than to rehabilitate certain properties in some areas. It was proposed that the decision making on whether to "rehabilitate" or "redevelop" is generally influenced by six aspects namely; political, legal, technical, institutional, social and economic forces (Walker, 2002). According to Olson et al. (2001) and Hobman and Bordia (2006), the influences of the professional work background on the attitudes towards a renewal project can also make a difference. For instance, building surveyors are said to consider the structural conditions of a particular building as the most vital concepts of consideration in a regeneration process. Conversely, the town planners tend to give more importance to the impacts of the project in the visual quality and micro climate of the neighbourhood rather than the structural conditions of a building (Olson et al., 2001, Hobman and Bordia, 2006).

Despite these converging views, it is evident that the implementation of an urban renewal strategy especially when done on a massive scale would include a strong financial input. This would also have to be coupled with adequate public resources, and a determined commitment to solving to the urban dereliction problems while aiming towards increasing the social and economic benefits and fostering entrepreneurial activity (Hamnet, 2000; Skifter Andersen, 2003; Calxton and Siora, 2008). In such circumstances, it is also advisable that there should be improvements to the infrastructure, the transportation system as well as the environment that should all coincide with the renewal development that has the support of all social partners (Adair et al., 2000). Yet, as such conditions rarely occur, policy makers must shape their development plans based upon the constraints they face at the particular moment in time. Williams (2006) suggested that in order to ensure a more successful project, the ruling authority can also use its powers relating to property development to influence the planning, the infrastructure and the compulsory purchase powers together with the availability of public land assets. When trading land for example, it is not a rare occurrence that one party missing from the market forum and thus the scenario of a compulsory purchase might be required in order for the renewal project not to be brought to a halt because by the private economic forces (Williams, 2006).

To redevelop or to rehabilitate?

Specifically on property-led redevelopment, Harvey (1992) highlighted that the timing of redevelopment projects depend on three essential issues being; the value of the current existing use of the land resource, the current value of the best of alternative use, and the cost of rebuilding. As the use of property is not irreversible, property has the potential to be redeveloped and converted into another type or usage to suit the expected socio-economic demands at a given time (Gunnerlin, 2001). According to the structure plan issued by the Malta Planning Authority (PA) (1998), there is a need:

"to use land and buildings efficiently and consequently channel urban development activity into planned developed areas particularly though rehabilitation and upgrading of existing fabric and infrastructure".

Notionally, if the present value of the existing use of the land resources is greater than the present value of the best alternative use, redevelopment would not take place since it would not be financially viable, and the rebuilding costs would affect the occurrence of urban renewal. This explains why sometimes redevelopment in the old, urban core is less attractive to the developers (Harvey and Jowsey, 2004).

As for the option of rehabilitation, which would mean securing the existing structure, it was concluded that it would only be advantageous when a number of conditions are met (Pugh, 1991). This would mean that the service life of a building would be prolonged by another thirty to fifty years. Furthermore, the value as well as the interest rate of the existing building would also have to be high. Additionally, Pugh (1991) argues that if the direct and indirect costs of rehabilitating are considerably less than those incurred by rebuilding, then the developer would be more tempted to rehabilitate rather than redevelop. Ratcliffe (1993) also estimated that the costs of renovating a building can amount to twenty-five percent less than starting a new building project and thus making it more attractive for developers. Aikivuori (1994) points out that refurbishments may sometimes be required when there is a need for change in the land-use as well as when there is a need to increase or secure the market value of the building. Additionally, this would also help to preserve the existing building and its externalities that may be important in inducing a culture-led regeneration.

Challenges facing the renewal process

"Housing has long been regarded as a durable commodity" (Wieand, 1999), yet, like any other physical commodity, properties are subject to deteriorate as time goes by and eventually fall into a state of dilapidation if they are not properly maintained (Burton 1933). A number of previous studies have highlighted among of the main factors that would make a building deemed for renewal would be the serviceable environment (Sohmer, 1999). Others like Rosenfeld and Shohet (1999) have formed models to determine whether and when a building should be upgraded. This helped to reduce uncertainties and serve as an aid when deciding whether to upgrade or not.

Nonetheless, one should not forget that there are always a set of constraints that are likely to slow or halt the process of urban renewal. The multiple ownership of a number of properties is one of them for example (Chun To Cho and Fellows, 2000; Galea Debono, 2009). So are the limitations on the development in the urban village core through the Urban Conservation Area (UCA) which restricts certain types of redevelopment projects. Additionally, it is also likely that there may be disputes in the process of resettling those affected and disagreements on compensation issues which make it more difficult for the private developers to find a compromise with the landowners (Sumka, 1979; Smith and Williams, 1986; Blomley, 2004). Furthermore, it is also often the case that the lack of a central governing body to implement redevelopment and private developers' little presumptive power, end up with the developers having fragmented, slow progress (Gordon, 2004).

Positive outcomes from urban regeneration

Fundamentally, the process of urban regeneration would help to contribute towards the preservation of structures of architectural value and significant historical importance (Jim, 1994). A sustainable regeneration scheme should therefore endeavour to lesson social exclusion, boost economic reintegration as well as salvage architecturally rich buildings and edifices (McGregor and McConnachie, 1995; Skifter Andersen, 2003; Bailey et al.,2004). Otherwise, an urban regeneration project can be a source of conflict and thus it might prove valuable to develop a decision making tool to facilitate the planning process as suggested by Walker (2002) and Ho et al. (2004).

Eventually, project regeneration proposals can be assessed and alterations can be made in order to achieve a higher rating for the plan which is subject to time, budgetary and other practical constraints (Ho et al., 2004). According to Kocabas, (2000a), evaluating the impact of protection planning would ideally assess outcomes against the physical, social and economic objectives. This should preserve the physical historic environment, the needs of the existing residents during the process of upgrading as well as determining whether the conservation process is economically viable (Kocabas, 2000a). On the other hand, Borja et al. (1997) showed that the socio-spatial outcomes of globalisation on urban areas varied according to the correlation between the technological and economic processes that form the core for this transformation.

Whilst it is now widely accepted that "no city can escape the reach of global economic and political forces" (Sassen, 2000; Taylor and Walker, 2001), it is also clear that "cities can upgrade their position in the global hierarchy by their strategic intervention" (Clarke and Gaile, 1997). This was the case with Ireland in 1988, for example. With the help of the European Commission, Ireland reflected on the mistakes made through the demolishment of buildings in inner Dublin through the "Greater Dublin Area Development Programme" secured and managed the preservation of the built historical environment (Pickard, 1994).

Essentially, the upgrade or upkeep of neighbourhood externalities is also thought to contribute to the migration and related change in a neighbourhood's economic status for two main reasons. Firstly, certain types of households may behave in ways that generate social capital and affluence for the neighbourhood influencing the demand for that location, thus, the process of gentrification (Ley, 2003). Likewise, certain types of households might also choose to migrate into or out of a neighbourhood based on the demographic and financial characteristics of their prospective neighbours because of the social status, irrespective of how these neighbours may behave (Rosenthal, 2008). In spite of this, it is important to recognise that raising a neighbourhood's economic status does not necessarily alleviate poverty but could simply force the existing low income residents to relocate to other areas of the locality. Jacobs (1961) argued that rather than being suffocated by urban regeneration, social life should be revived, thus, the process of gentrification might not be always seen in a good light especially from those who are less affluent and other deprived sections of society (Sumka, 1979; Smith and Williams, 1986; Blomley, 2004). Therefore, building rehabilitation may garner more support as it causes less social disturbances (Needleman, 1966; DeFilippis, 2007).

Achieving success through failure

Amongst the good examples of successful waterfront regeneration projects that have managed to generate enough employment opportunities for the locals, Gloucester, Swansea, Cardiff and Liverpool immediately stand out in the United Kingdom (Jones and Gripaios, 2000). In these cases, a number of listed warehouses were refurbished and transformed to provide residential, office, retail, museum, marinas and restaurant facilities. Liverpool's Albert Dock, for instance, has been so successful as a heritage site that was previously in a state of decay that it now receives around six million visitors yearly (Jones and Gripaios, 2000). From being a totally abandoned and neglected eyesore, the Albert Dock has now been turned into a visually pleasing environment with the most obvious and tangible manifestations of successful regeneration project in the United Kingdom. Canary Wharf in London is another successful redevelopment that even managed to generate 7,000 jobs for the locals (Danielsand Bobe, 1993).

In spite of these successful cases of regeneration, the process of urban renewal still generates a great deal of heated debate especially when faced fierce opposition from the locals that fear that there would no significant improvement in their standard of living such as in the case of Canary Wharf in London. Quite rightly as Jeffrey and Pounder (2000) suggest, the physical improvement of a building is a fundamental element in achieving a successful regeneration project, however Hausner (1993), suggested that on its own it is not sufficient as the development of any project reflects the conditions and requirements of the area in which the project is located from a wider perspective. In addition to this, Moore (2002) sustains that the proactive use of this policy might even improve the local economic development and even create new working places, however, this might only be for a short while. Hemphill et al. (2004) argues that much of the research conducted in the United Kingdom tends to be critical as there is a persistent sentiment that urban policy has not really left many of the desired effects on the regenerated area. This had already been thought earlier as even though the inner-city redevelopments generally improve and enhance the degraded built environments, there is criticism that such projects only cater to certain sectors of society and particular locations such as waterfronts and thus these types of projects can fragment cities (Fainstein, 1994; Meyer, 1999; Marshall, 2003).

Further criticism concludes that the stated goal of urban design and renewal is often forgotten as the concepts have become merely a marketing tool (Gospodini, 2002). Moreover, it is generally felt that the concept of urban renewal is too vague with the fusion of the traditional architecture, the landscape architecture, and the planning and civil engineering. As a result, urban renewal is said to be focused mainly on the marginal cosmetic aesthetics of the landscape rather than helping to sustain a better standard of living in the area (Inam, 2002). Hubbard (2006) added that the social as well as economic conditions of an area are usually worsened though the regeneration and gentrification policies that are meant to be beneficial. On a wider scale, Newman and Thornley (1996) had previously suggested that in contrast with other cities, the key European cities such as; Paris, Milan, Berlin, Frankfurt and Stockholm are underpinned by the factor of the international competitiveness rather than by the notion of urban policy and therefore the residents' standard of living has nothing to do concept of urban renewal. Bentley (1999) went even further and argued that apart from the social, economic and environmental limitations, the concept of urban design is often manipulated by developers and public authorities to covertly hijack public space and neglect local conditions and values. Revitalisation projects targeted parts of the cities, such as decayed port areas and other post-industrial sites, for major redevelopments so that the area in effect becomes totally gentrified resulting in a residential area for the more affluent citizens rather than the whole society in general (Bentley, 1999).

Proprietors' awareness and involvement

It is evident that one of biggest barriers when it comes to building maintenance is the owners' awareness that find it difficult to realise the basic forms of decay and the resulting impact on the building material (Kangwa and Olubodun, 2003). To make matters worse, when action is taken, it is often the case that an inappropriate remediation technique is applied (Leather and Mackintosh, 1994; Forrest et al., 1996). Thus, any effective renewal system must be constructed upon well informed diagnostic skill structures. Chanter and Swallow (1996) and Davidson et al. (1997) have suggested that some of the main awareness problems apart from the variations in perceptions of objects of regular maintenance include the inability to tell whether inferior products or components are used to rehabilitate the building. In addition to this, they also add that the average owner is generally unable to determine the quality of work done by the traders and cannot judge accurately the extent of skill required for a particular work. In the end they argue that the absence of a referral system within the local housing communities which would act as an initial contacts for advice and general information on housing maintenance. Consequently, it is often the case that waves of building depilation later turn into the process of urban decay that has been a major problem in most developed cities (Skifter Andersen, 1995).

It must be recognised that the local inhabitants are fundamentally the problem solvers and play an important and useful role not only in implementing regeneration strategies but also in maintaining the socio-economic improvement of the neighbourhood over the years. As powerlessness is central to people's experience of poverty and exclusion, the people in general are more likely to involve themselves if they can clearly see their contribution in the city (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2005). Throughout the last number of years, the local citizens have also been emphasizing that new developments should retain their own characteristic and identity in order to reflect their collective memories. Public consultation meetings are no longer satisfying the citizens as they believe that a comprehensive public engagement exercise for the project is required and more channels should be provided for them to express their views on the developments (Lee and Chan, 2008).

Research has shown that in the absence of government intervention, property owners are prepared to improve their buildings and edifices since it would enhance the market value of the refurbished properties provided that there is enough information for people to take sensible decisions (Holm, 2000; Gregg and Crosbie, 2001). Besides from having restored building edifices, this type of refurbishment project is estimated to increase the market price of the property which leaves a good profit after deducting the costs of the refurbishment project (Chau et al., 2003). Improvements on the buildings especially on the facades are intuitively expected to have a positive impact on properties adjacent to the building because of the improved visual quality enjoyed by the nearby residents. Likewise, unsightly externalities are created by the unsightliness of poorly maintained properties, thus, refurbishing these poor maintained buildings should reduce or even counter the negative impact (Colwell et al., 2000; Boyle and Kiel, 2001).

Nevertheless, while everyone would benefit from improving the exterior conditions of the buildings, the market value of the properties improved first would have their value depreciated by the dire condition of the neighbouring properties and thus for an individual to take the first step would not be easy. As a result, the unimproved properties would experience an increase in value as a result of the nearby investments done by the others. Consequently, this might also lead to a market failure as the refurbishment process may never take off completely resulting in an investment which is less than what was desired (Hui et al., 2007). Should more information on the enhanced market value of a refurbished building be made available, then the long-term sustainability of a rehabilitation effort would be incorporated into the urban renewal strategies easily, however, one must not forget that the effects may not be felt until a long time. In this particular scenario, the authority in charge should encourage and encourage developers and owners to instigate redevelopment. Ultimately, the process of renewal is a "product of an incremental decision making" as owners have to decide whether to rehabilitate or redevelop their built land which is subject to facing obsoleteness (Bryson, 1997).

Concluding Remarks

As authorities are widely considered as the ones responsible for the process of urban decay, they started to be seen as being unable to engage successfully with the private sector. With the rise of the new conservative movements, the local government started to be marginalised in favour of the private sector when it came to taking decisions (Gullino, 2008). This resulted in private sector being placed at the centre of the renewal activities as these kinds of projects are assumed to attract new financial capital (Bianchini et al., 1992; Loftman and Nevin, 1995). Despite the process of urban renewal through which environmental quality redevelopments occurs in derelict urban areas is highly contested, the redevelopment of decaying, run-down or underused parts of urban areas with the intention of bringing new life into them and economic vitality is crucial in maintaining a market position (Bolton Council, 2009). Regeneration projects would therefore ideally foster a number of schemes to achieve the right pace of regeneration that is sustainable. Particular attention should be paid in order not to harm the community when renewal occurs too fast and not to halt the momentum, commitment and enthusiasm when the process of renewal happens too slowly. Design should also include the latest energy efficiency standards where possible and the highest quality design and materials which represent the local culture and traditional skills should be used (Buhagiar, 2005). Above all, as already mentioned, the residents' ideas and stories have to be understood in any proposed regeneration scheme to truly deliver a sustainable environment which imposes all sectors of society to undertake the task of bringing back life and vibrancy to neglected areas in a city (Hamdi, 2004, Ho et al., 2008).


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