On the 9th July, the Institute of Place Management hosted its third webinar in the ‘International place leadership’ series. Chaired by Berlin-based director professor Ares Kalandides, the webinar brought together place managers and leaders engaged in the Interreg project ABCitEs, which focuses on how area based collaborative enterprise can be better supported by public policy. Over the course of the session, we heard from place professionals representing each of the partner cities involved in the project: Amsterdam, Athens, Withington (a district centre in Manchester), CLES (Manchester based think-tank), the cities of Varaždin- Čakovec (Croatia), and Vilnius.
Prior to the webinar, each place was asked to consider three questions:
Aggie Augenbroe, co-ordinator for Business Improvement Districts in Amsterdam, and Eward Koning, chairperson of the business association in Amsterdam, began proceedings, discussing the overall impact of COVID19 on Amsterdam and reporting on their experience of the managing streets in the city centre during the lockdown. Aggie mentioned the visitor economy had been hard hit, with arrivals at Schipol airport down 97% in April and May, compared to the same period last year. Despite the easing of lockdown measures, visitor numbers in the centre are still significantly down, with June footfall in the main retail district in June less than half that compared to 2019. Aggie mentioned the municipality had suspending charging fees such as local market dues, advertising and commercial use fees, in order to help local business.
Hennie Loos, economic advisor for the city of Amsterdam, then went on to discuss campaigns aimed at bringing residents and also local visitors back into the city, to re-discover the centre safely, highlighting galleries and others services that had re-opened. The municipality has introduced a new policy allowing businesses to apply for a temporary terrace extension in order to utilise outdoor space, with Hennie mentioning they have already received 1100 applications. Additionally, the city of Amsterdam launched a competition, asking entrepreneurs to design corona-proof initiatives. Winners of the competition, of which there have been 123 applications, receive support for their initiative and access to expert advice.
We then heard from representatives from Athens, with University of Thessaloniki lecturer Athanasios Kalogeresis explaining governments’ response to Covid-19, and reporting how a high number of businesses remain closed due to lack of demand for their services. Eleftheria Alexandri, from the City of Athens, discussed the social and economic stress Covid-19 has caused in Athens, outlining the municipality’s response to the pandemic. Eleftheria mentioned, how Athens like Amsterdam, has introduced rates and tax relief for businesses and utilised communal outdoor space to attract people back to the centre. Importantly, she reported how the community in the city had come together to support each other. It was particularly interesting to hear how the municipality had acquired a number of vacant buildings to house homeless and people in poverty.
Next up, Martin Saker, strategic lead for neighbourhoods at Manchester City Council (MCC), discussed the response from Withington, a district centre located in South Manchester, which is the focus on Manchester’s involvement in the ABCitiEs project. Martin gave a brief outline of Withington village, noting how back in 2014 the community successfully lobbied against the closure of a local swimming bath, taking it over as social enterprise. The success of this initiative led to the formation of a neighbourhood partnership, the Withington Regeneration Partnership, and the subsequent formation of a traders association ‘We Are Withington’. Following the pandemic, MCC set up a helpline to support people suffering from all forms of isolation and poverty during the crisis. Martin mentioned the community in Withington rallied on social media via the ‘We Are Withington’ group, disseminating advice, information and offering support to one another. The municipality also introduced temporary measures to increase the widths of pavement to allow for social distancing. Martin reported how many small businesses in the Village have been innovative in finding ways to maintain business continuity by launching online stores, offering new delivery services, and utilising downtime to make improvements to storefronts. Martin finished by looking to the future noting the neighbourhood partnership was still active and aiding the recovery of the centre.
Helen Power, external affairs and policy manager at CLES, delivered a presentation about ongoing research as part of ABCitEs project exploring area based collaboration within Manchester’s district centres. The research is looking into 10 local centres within Manchester to establish the strength and capacity of area-based collaborative networks across Manchester, by interviews with ‘network’ leaders in each place. n important outcome of this work, therefore, will be a clearer picture of what existing and potential local partnerships there are in Manchester, and how place-based stakeholder might play a role in recovery planning and place transformation within district centres.
Following a short question and answer session about the use of digital communication during lockdown, we heard from Varaždin-Čakovec area in Croatia. Professor Vjeran Strahonja, started by stating he believes Croatia will not be the same following the crisis. He mentioned businesses across the city have been utilising digital platforms and have had to adapt quickly with limited time frames to implement new models and ideas. Similar to the other centres Vjeran discussed the innovation of businesses to combat the pandemic highlighting 3D printing of PPE equipment.
Goranka Grgic went on to discuss the response from the city of Varaždin, discussing the effects on the city with widespread business closures and cancellation of major events. Goranka mentioned the city council had suspended many fees and taxes to support citizens and businesses, with city suspending parking fees and organising a number of drive-through markets. The city also launched the entrepreneurs fund to support small businesses and provide financial aid to companies in need.
To finish proceedings Laurynas Braškus from the Sunrise Valley Digital Innovation in Vilnius explained the response and the various schemes to recover within the city. Laurynas discussed the website www.karantinas.it, which is an informative website, which provided people with ideas of what they could do within the lockdown restrictions. The site has tailored section for each age group including children, teenagers and adults, as well as family activities. Laurynas highlighted a range of innovative activities within Vilnius including transforming public space into a beach to make people feel like there are on holiday as well as allowing bars and restaurants to utilise public areas allowing them to open safely and with enough space to socially distance.
Following the final speaker session, Ares hosted a question and answer session, with questions focussing on place based partnership, have they strengthened, adapted and changed as a result of Covid-19.
If you missed the session you can catch up via the recording below:
We will be hosting more internationally focused webinar in September. Please watch out for any announcements which will come via our monthly members' newsletter.