A STAREBEI Program funded by the European Investment Bank
As the United Nations stated in 1987, “this is the century of the urban revolution” and, almost thirty years later, the annual State of the World Population recognizes that about half of the world’s population is living in urban areas.
Cities have a wide range of functions and, according to many studies and reports – e.g. the Commission’s Green Paper on the Urban Environment (1990), the first Report on the Sustainable City (1994) and the State of European Cities (2007) – they are the main centre of economic activities, innovation and culture. People are naturally attracted by cities because they can find there an answer to their basic needs and aspirations. Housing, employment, security, social interaction, infrastructures, facilities and purchase of goods are among the main and traditional services provided by towns and city areas.
Nevertheless, cities are complex and dynamic systems, hence inevitably changing over the time. The Information and Communication Technology revolution and the globalization of economies and cultures are making cities the core of world development. This is of particular interest, since, over the past decade, distance and the physical space were considered to be death (Friedman 2005), while it has been rightly argued that new technologies enhance face-to-face interactions, which are more important in denser places, i.e. in the cities (Putnam, 2000).
Locating a firm or living in a city have recognized benefits in terms of higher productivity and salaries (Combes et al., 2009), possibilities of social interactions (Bruckner and Largey, 2008). However, contemporary cities are also experiencing severe problems in terms of negative environmental externalities as pollution, excessive sprawl, segregation, crime. In this context, urban development can be seen as an effort of balancing costs and benefits of urbanization, i.e. an effort of promoting a sustainable path of development.
European cities are in a critical moment in their histories, they are between a sustainable development pattern and the threat of social and economic downturn. It is hence clear that new needs are growing in city areas; to this end, the European Commission has launched the “Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas”, known by the acronym JESSICA with the aim to promote sustainable urban development through innovative funding schemes and public-private partnerships.
Despite the large stock of preparatory studies commissioned by the European Investment Bank, we think that a broad comparative picture of European urban dynamics is needed indeed in order to better understand territorial needs and evolution as well as to identify the most profitable investments in the long run and their governance as well. To this end, in this research we aim to provide a better understanding of driving forces of urban development in Europe and tools to identify investment opportunities and risks through urban development funds.
Program director: Marco Percoco
Researchers involved: Luisa Gagliardi, Marco Percoco