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To re-create life in the cities: the LICI project.

Actions of urban renewal represent important investments in our cities. They often generate empty spaces that are underused, misused or simply not used at all. When looking for an architectural gesture, the concern of many projects focuses on aesthetics rather than on the promotion of community well-being. This creates so many problems in city hubs, gives rise to disjointed urban centres and generates a worrying absence of bonds between districts which emphasizes the city centres' lack of attractiveness.

Thus we reinforce the importance of one of the four bases of architecture (Belmont, Les 4 fondements de l'architecture, 1987) called "commoditas" (architecture is made for the inhabitants). That means that aesthetics are not always the most important part of the project. The objectives should be to improve the social interaction, increase cultural exchanges, develop an economic vitality and link all stakeholders.

It is thus important to understand what makes an urban space attractive or not to the user, to define what needs to be carried out to turn today's empty space into tomorrow's destination. A first step is thus to question related communities and potential users by using a bottom-up approach, the user being at the centre of the reflection, instead of the traditional top-down approach. When rethinking the space, the impulse should come from the communities.

It is in fact a move toward a "societal" approach. According to Kotler (Marketing Management, 2003), the societal marketing concept should, on the one hand, determine the needs, wants, and interests of the targets and on the other hand, fulfill target communities' requests effectively and efficiently in a way that preserves or enhances the consumer's and the society's well-being.

We can thus apply to urban planning traditional marketing concepts as a unique selling proposition (USP) which evolves, in this case, to the urban lifestyle point (ULP) but which basically follows the same process. By reclaiming public spaces for public use, the ULP aims at (re)designing the space following the feedback from communities with animations, events, and the setup of various amenities which implies the daily presence of a managing structure conferring value to the space. To create value for a public space, it should be thought up as a commercial concept.

This new way of thinking and managing public space uses and adapts the techniques of experiential marketing in order to reach the same successful results as the ones obtained in retailing (Dioux and Dupuis, La distribution, 2005) : attractivity, curiosity effect, status effect, theatricalization of the space, and appropriation effect. Real experiences of life are built up creating or re-creating life in the cities.

The conception, design, set up and management of a ULP demand flexibility and high resources in skills, time, and money, which is hard to envisage in a public framework only. It is vital to identify, from the very beginning, other partners likely to co-fmance the ULR This partnership as primarily defined is meant to change over time, evolving like the ULP itself.

Between March 2011 and December 2014, four countries in northwestern Europe tested and set up ULP on their public spaces. The Lively Cities project [LICI], is co-financed by the European programme INTERREG IVB NEW. It brings the following eight partners together: the cities of Aberdeen, Brighton, Eindhoven, Lille, Toumai, the University of Van Hall Larenstein, the public-private partnerships of La Louviere, and the Belgian Association of Town Centre Management (AMCV), the latter being the leading partner.

The experiments were carried out in 2012 and their performance and mutual transferability assessed. The years 2013 and 2014 were dedicated to the set-up of final actions, the long-term programming of the different spaces and above all the development of partnerships and consequent creation of long-term structures of daily place-management.

As a conclusion, we can say that creating a ULP induces the set-up of both strategic and operational dimensions. A continuous assessment structured by daily management allows the space to evolve according to new needs, trends and desires. The community is involved through the four Rs developed by Aitken and Campelo (Journal of Marketing Management, 2001) : the rights obtained by each member of the group, the necessary roles to maintain and develop the space, the linking of responsibilities and the relationships which will influence both partners as the way to envisage their interactions with the place and with others. The success of a ULP can be measured regarding appropriation by users, image quality, the success of its "conviviality" function, use, the value of offerings, ease of parking and access, capacity to be a natural link with its surroundings and last but not least its continuous ability to evolve.

JEL Categories: M00, R10

DOI: 10.1007/s11294-014-9506-8

Published online: 4 December 2014

C. Scoubeau ([mail])

UMONS, Mons, Belgium

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Title Annotation:RESEARCH NOTE
Author:Scoubeau, Chantal
Publication:International Advances in Economic Research
Geographic Code:4E
Date:Mar 1, 2015
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