Porto, the URBACT city par excellence!

Ana Resende

By Ana Resende, on March 21st, 2019

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The city of Porto (PT) is the URBACT city per excellence amongst Portuguese cities!

And why? On the one hand, it is the city with the largest participation in URBACT networks over the last 10 years: six, in total. On the other hand, it is a city that registers a strong involvement of various departments of the local authority and of the mixed capital company Porto Vivo SRU, focused on the urban rehabilitation of its historical centre.

The city

Porto is the second city of the country, capital of the Metropolitan Area of Porto and of the North Region, as well as the headquarters of important Portuguese economic groups.

But talking about Porto is also talking about the famous wine that forms its name – Porto wine. This wine is produced in the Douro valley, with which the city maintains strong economic relations, in a complementary relationship between the major coastal urban centre and the hinterland, specifically geared towards the production of fortified wines of the highest quality.

For some years now, tourism has fulfilled an important role in the development of the city, to which the classification by UNESCO, of its historical centre has contributed. In fact, the city has been elected the best European tourist destination several times over the last few years!

URBACT projects

The participation of the city of Porto in the URBACT Programme has had benefits on several fronts: from urban renewal and its financing mechanisms to structures of local governance, and the competitiveness of the economy and the attractiveness of the territory as well.

Within the scope of URBACT II, the city participated, through Porto Vivo SRU, in projects of major relevance: Jessica For Cities and CSI Europe. Whilst the first was a pioneer in the assessment of the benefits that community funds could bring to European cities when designed to be applied in urban rehabilitation and urban development projects, the second focused on the best way of combining subsidies and JESSICA funds, on opening new financing lines to support different sectors of activity, including direct support to housing and the intervention of privates, without forgetting the objectives of energy efficiency improvement.

This company was also a partner of the 2nd Chance network, recently concluded within the scope of URBACT III, and which seeks to give new life to a badly degraded urban area of the Historical Centre of Porto: the area of Santa Clara. This territory was defined as preferential and a priority for the continuation of the rehabilitation of the historical centre, classified as world heritage.

The ENTER.HUB (URBACT II) project was crucial for the launch of the transformation project of the railway junction of Campanhã into a future intermodal, modern and innovative interface.

Still on the topic of Governance, the Smart Impact network applies specific methodologies of co-design and co-creation with a view to promoting the intelligent and sustainable development of the city. This objective is based on the open dialogue between local authority, companies, university and a vast range of stakeholders.

The local authority was also involved in the In Focus network, aimed at adapting the smart specialisation strategy at a regional level, the RIS3 (Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation), to the city’s structure. In the case of Porto, the focus was on the development of clusters.

Emblematic actions

We chose two actions: one promoted by Porto Vivo SRU, the Photography Exhibition of Santa Clara; the other, promoted by the local authority, the Plan of the Eastern Part Bonfim-Campanhã.

The aim of Porto Vivo SRU, expressed in the Integrated Local Action Plan of Santa Clara is, on the one hand, to minimise the detrimental effects that the location of that area (literally below the D. Luiz bridge) has on its residents and, on the other hand, create conditions that lead to a wave of change, resulting in public and private investment in that area.

One of the actions that took place with a view to reviving the area was a Photography Exhibition, to spark interest in discovering the neighbourhood. This exhibition was part of a more extensive programme – Enhancement Programme of Santa Clara – which took place over four months.

The exhibition was based on the “Re.Ver Santa Clara” photography competition. The photographs were displayed on the walls of the buildings along one of the staircases of the neighbourhood, revealing the different eyes of the participants of the competition.

As witnessed, the area of Campanhã has for many years been a concern of the local authority. Taking advantage of the decision to implement a new intermodal railway junction in the city, the creation of a new business cluster in this poor and degraded area of the city was associated to this operation.

In response to specific needs, the Porto municipality aims to implement an innovative project which consists in the installation of several coworking spaces, a business centre and art galleries in the eastern part of the city (Bonfim-Campanhã).

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