Understanding and evaluating 'bottom-up' urban regeneration

The research develops, through the analysis of different case studies in Europe, a framework to understand and evaluate the urban regeneration projects developed ‘from the bottom up’.

The doctoral research will explain if the bottom-up projects are really capable of achieving the goals that academic literature typically refers to urban regeneration, thus demonstrating if they are able to improve the conditions of an urban area whose borders are wider than the physical project itself. The developed framework will be applied to selected case studies developed in Europe since 2010. The question that the research is answering is: can a private-led, small-scale, non-speculative urban project lead to a comprehensive regeneration of an urban area? Considering the social, physical and economic dimensions, the research will unfold:

  • the variety of initiatives and actors involved;
  • the strategies adopted in the project and their effectiveness;
  • the context’s conditions that sustain or obstacle the development of the initiatives;
  • the issues faced by the promoters;
  • the potentials of this kind of projects;
  • the outcomes of the projects and their evaluation.

This research will consent to inform public authorities, academics, urban practitioners and private citizens about the importance of private-led projects in the regeneration, and more generally in the design, of the urban environment. The research will be a fundamental contribution in the discipline, that urgently needs to take distance on one side from an unconditioned romantic exaltation of private initiatives, on the other from a prejudicial scepticism on the real possibilities of bottom-up projects. These positions, as will be briefly depicted below, are present in contemporary discourses of academics and citizens. Furthermore, to understand how these projects develop, could shed light on issues faced by promoters, generating debate on the possibility and the methods through which public authorities could sustain these initiatives. Some current European policy instruments, thought to support bottom-up initiatives, like the Community Led Local Development (CLLD), could be affected by the results of this research in their further improvements.