“the commercial revitalization of urban centers” at the center of the symposium “Urban and public spaces”

Organized by the Agency for Development, Urbanism and Energy of Corsica, the second edition of the “City and Public Spaces” colloquium took place on Wednesday at the Palais des Congrès in Ajaccio. A round table meeting was especially devoted to the commercial revitalization of city centers.

The symposium “City and Public Space” was canceled two years ago due to the Covid epidemic, and has returned to Ajaccio. Another edition, which took place on Wednesday 4 May at the Palais des Congrès around a global theme “(Re) qualify, manage and practice public spaces”.

In front of a hundred people, various speakers discussed in particular the commercial revitalization of city centers. “There was a lot of information and very interesting elements with speakersanalyzes Julien Paolini, President of the Agency for Development, Urbanism and Energy of Corsica (AUE). The ideas raised were interesting, especially the example of Libourne, which is a smaller city than Ajaccio and which is based on the three main pillars of revitalization: housing, soft mobility and public spaces.. “

Located in the Gironde, near Bordeaux, the city of 25,000 inhabitants has been mentioned as an example in terms of re-qualification and reconstruction of the city center. “6-7 years ago we had a larger unemployed position and a departure of the population from the city center to the outskirtsexplains Jean-Philippe Le Gal, Deputy Mayor of Libourne and present at this conference. We therefore wrote a 10-year urban project including the development of the quay and the desire to create pedestrian areas, very overgrown, without excluding the car. It is both an ambitious housing policy, commercial recapture and opening of new stores, then a mobility policy, especially with the renovation of our station, which connects Libourne with Bordeaux.. […] Today, this policy is beginning to bear fruit. “

Asked if he sees any similarities between Libourne and Ajaccio, Jean-Philippe Le Gal replies: “the context is necessarily different and is specific to each territory. There is also island construction here. We do not necessarily do the same in Ajaccio, Libourne or Maubeuge. Simply put, we have almost the same tools for reclaiming habitats. Either we can choose to develop the outskirts, and there are tools for that, or we favor the city center, and there are also tools. In these tools there are e.g. a beach promenade that can be staged. “

In Ajaccio, there has also been the Citadelle Miollis in the past year, which is an example of urban planning in a transition period. Purchased by the city, the old barracks located in the ramparts have been completely redesigned to welcome the public since last summer. “In less than a year, the site has attracted 20,000 people “says Diane Lambrushini, project director at SPL Ametarra with responsibility for the development and animation of the citadel.

This area should tomorrow be a central area, for life, meeting, especially around culture and artistic events with a transitional urbanism, emphasizes Julien Paolini for her part. This is done in such a way that the Ajaccians and Corsicans in general acquire this emblematic place with a beautiful project.. ”

Nevertheless, it’s a bit of a challenge for Diane Lambruschini at the moment to attract Ajacci’s: “we do not have to worry about taking tourists with usshe says. On the other hand, it’s harder to attract Ajacciens, which I include myself, because it’s a place we’ve never been before, because it’s closed to the public. So there is a habit to create and it takes some time and goes through different events. “

If the citadel could revive the center of Ajaccio, “other handles are available depending on the city “ points out Elsa Martin. She is a lecturer specializing in urban sociology at the University of Lorraine and nevertheless believes that “Commercial attractiveness may be questionable and not necessarily sustainable. “

Urban development can accompany the return of shops, but at the same time this attraction also contributes to bringing in certain shops, to polarizing urban spaces and to creating forms of hierarchy in the city center. thinks Elsa Martin. Some streets are so more attractive than others, and shoppers feel it. Moreover, some do not refrain from going to the outskirts. Very often we try to be careful not to develop a peripheral business, telling ourselves that it will affect the city center and that it will create competition. Traders are worried about it. But at the same time, they also sometimes perceive a commercial opportunity on the outskirts and then leave the city center.

A situation that the Ajaccian region has experienced for several years, where large shopping malls have opened with a wealth of shops. which caused “a change in Corsican habits of shopping, walking or spending a Saturday in these areas instead of in the city center “, recognizes Julien Paolini, who adds: “there is especially an appeal among the youngest for certain brands that everyone knows. “

“We need to rectify the situation and we can still change the model.”

Julien Paolini

President of the EUA

For the President of the AUE, “there has been no forward-looking strategy for the development of suburbs and urban areas. “. “We has also undergone exponential demographic growth, particularly in Corsica. We can see how fast these urban areas have developed. In the end, public policy suffered somewhat from this. We need to rectify the situation and we can still change the model. Libourne is an example of this. “

Also the mayor of the village of Pietroso, Julien Paolini does “does not want to oppose peripheral shopping malls, urban centers or villages in the interior. “” There is, according to him, a real network and an overall dynamic to think about; and that’s the whole point, he specifies. In addition, the Community in Corsica is working with the Urban Planning Agency on a report on contractualisation of urban areas to address these issues and to consider the development of these different territories. It should be presented to the Corsican Assembly during the June or July meeting. “

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