Revitalization in Liverpool
The latest piece in the series of articles I have been writing about culture-based revitalization initiatives in European cities for the "Europe in Baltimore" initiative of the European Union National Institutes of Culture Washington Cluster is up at "Liverpool regeneration as a process for regaining relevance at the regional, national, and global scales."
Each article seems to get longer, because I learn so much with each exploration. Liverpool is a case in point. Like many US cities that have de-industrialized, Liverpool is faced with a great deal of poverty. But Liverpool has been hit with a triple whammy besides that:
1. the shifting of UK maritime trade to Europe, making a western port like Liverpool locationally obsolete;
2. the shifting of the UK's economy to Southeastern England anchored by London, and away from the north especially;
3. regional competition for economic relevance with Manchester, also once a leading industrial city (the birth of modern textiles happened there), which is only 30 miles away.
While the city still faces incredible deep-rooted poverty and building abandonment issues, over the past 18 years especially, they have successfully pushed forward on revitalization of the waterfront and city center, attracting residents, retail and new businesses to the city's core, through the successful creation of an "urban regeneration corporation" as an implementation organization, guided by a solid and visionary revitalization plan (called a "Strategic Regeneration Framework"), and a good dollop of funding from the European Union's economic development programs targeting areas of especial impoverishment.
One of the most striking moves was setting in the SRF the goal of being selected as a "European Capital of Culture," even though at the time the UK wasn't even slated to be a participating country. So they created the Liverpool Culture Company to begin bid preparation, and when it became the UK's time, they were ready, and were selected over 11 other cities.
They used the event to rebrand and reposition the city at regional, national, European, and global scales in a very impressive manner.
Around the time of the Capital of Culture host year in 2008, they reorganized the urban regeneration corporation from a planning and marketing organization to one more active in development, functioning as the city economic development agency, with new responsibilities for the rest of the city.
Similarly, they reorganized and integrated the city's culture functions into a unified city program and agency as well.
The economic downturn hasn't been kind to England, and the austerity program of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government hasn't helped. But the city keeps moving forward, utilizing big events as inflection and focus points. For example, this year the city is host to major events commemorating the start of World War One as well as the inaugural edition of the UK's business promotion trade festival, the International Festival of Business.
And they are working on being ready to bid to be selected as a future European Green Capital, to further their achievement of a variety of sustainability objectives and initiatives.
The city has challenges, but for the most part they are working very diligently to address them.
They are a very good example for US cities on how to be very strategic. And a good example to the US federal government about how creating urban promotion, capacity building, and knowledge dissemination programs like the European Union Capital of Culture, Science City, Green Capital, and Youth Capital programs could be a great way to reset our aspirations as cities, metropolitan areas, and as a nation.