Urban Regeneration Projects in Nicosia
Nicosia is the capital of Cyprus and the political, cultural, educational and religious centre of the country. Nicosia is also the last divided city in Europe. According to the constitution of Cyprus, the city has to be divided into a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot area. The “Bufferzone” divides the city into two urban areas. Because of this division the two parts have developed separately in the past, causing significant differences for instance in economic development. In 1979, the representatives of the Greek and Turkish areas agreed on closer cooperation in preparing a common Master Plan. This Master Plan has the aim of developing a unified Nicosia.
Issue: upgrading the historical city centre of Nicosia
The Nicosia Urban Regeneration project is based on the objectives and framework of this common Master Plan combined with the Nicosia local Plan. The overall objective of the regeneration programme, closely linked to these two plans, is the establishment of an integrated regeneration process for Nicosia. Central issues are the sustainable urban regeneration of the historic core of the walled city of Nicosia and the integrated development of the city outside the historic Venetian walls. A number of regeneration and development projects in the historic centre, other traditional cores and in the wider central area have been implemented or are scheduled for implementation. Furthermore, planning and projects for the enhancement of public transport and other sustainable mobility modes are currently underway. All these policies and projects address issues of social and economic cohesion through programmes which target weak social groups.
Approach: Eight Core Principles
For the redevelopment of the centre of Nicosia, eight principles have been established which should promote the integrated sustainable regeneration of the area:
- A compact city model will be promoted;
- The inter-relationships between economic development, social inclusion, the protection of the environment and innovative institutional tools will be explored;
- The efficient use of land by means of a higher density of development, mixed uses and the reuse of vacant and underused existing building stock will be promoted, as opposed to allowing urban sprawl;
- To create vibrant spaces, mixed use developments in locations that allow for the creation of links between different functions will be pursued;
- Mobility principles that reduce the need to travel and encourage accessible public transport provision will be implemented;
- New provisions for open spaces, sports and recreation will be located in accessible places which can be reached on foot, by bicycle or public transport rather than just by private car;
- Special attention will be given to the protection and rehabilitation of heritage buildings;
- Derelict and brownfield locations in the industrial area will be redeveloped for more contemporary functions.
Results: effects of separate projects reinforce each other
The implemented projects achieving the principles stated above have significantly upgraded the physical urban environment and improved the architectural heritage within it. Open public spaces have been redesigned to introduce a high quality of design, materials and urban furniture, thus improving the quality of life for residents and visitors. Examples of projects implemented are the “Children’s Educational Center” in the walled city of Nicosia, and a cultural center “The Mill’’ in Kaimakli historic core. The upgrading of the public utility infrastructure has created an attractive environment for new businesses use, which is further supported by the improvement in public transport and other sustainable mobility modes.
Influence Cohesion Policy: speedy and high quality implementation
The main urban infrastructure projects, such as the restoration and re-use of historic buildings and façades, upgrading the public utility infrastructure and the public transportation system, were co-funded by the ERDF (approximately €39million) and Republic of Cyprus funds. Social projects which aim to implement cohesion and social inclusion policies have been co-funded by the ESF (approximately €90.000) as well as national funding.
Without Cohesion Policy the projects would not have been achieved with the quality they have been. The urban environment in the project area has been significantly improved with high quality design, materials, infrastructure and urban furniture. Social programs have helped immigrants and other vulnerable social groups acquire language and computer skills while providing child care facilities to enable them to enter the local work force.
Cohesion funding allowed a speedy implementation as well. Combined with the higher quality, the speed with which the projects could be developed allowed the city to benefit from the positive impacts much sooner than would otherwise have been possible. Furthermore, Cohesion Policy has brought the planning of developments in the urban environment to a higher level due to the structured and targeted manner through which projects within this policy are planned and carried out.
Integrated development: improvements in the urban environment, infrastructure and social inclusion
The various projects completed or under implementation during the two EU Structural Funds programming periods have revived the potential and stimulated the interest of various stakeholders and development forces in the city. The implementation of projects supported by both ERDF and ESF has produced a synergy which maximised the effect of European and State funds in favour of integrated development, which shows in terms of an upgraded urban environment and infrastructure. The implementation of social programmes has supported the social inclusion of various groups in the city.
In additionally, Nicosia is one of the 66 cities involved in the testing phase of the “Reference Framework for Sustainable Cities”. Through this instrument, it is possible to review the degree to which local developments are integrated, and how improvements can be made.
Spin-offs: more interest from private investors
The implementation of the co-funded projects has led to more interest from private investors in the walled city and in other adjacent historic cores. Such investment includes the restoration of private residences, the upgrading of existing businesses and the start-up in the historic urban centre of SMEs like coffee shops, boutiques, and traditional crafts shops.
The strong interest shown by academic institutions such as colleges and universities in locating some of their departments in the historic urban core reinforces the regeneration efforts. Cultural development has been boosted too: a range of cultural events is organised in the city, utilising the restored architectural heritage and the enhanced open public spaces.
This text relies on helpful comments of Athina Papadopoulou, planning officer at Nicosia Municipality.