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Urban renewal: public and private partnerships

  • Meeting in hybrid format - Rome
  • 5 July 2022

        Urban renewal continues to pose a pivotal challenge to cities around the world, which have various models from which to choose: from salvaging abandoned industrial areas, or “brownfields”, to revitalization efforts that are a classic driver of investments, such as large-scale events, which have taken on a new dimension over recent years. While past aims concerned the preparation of facilities within preset timeframes, with the earmarking of additional resources and special procedures, the logic now is to look beyond the individual event to its enhanced legacy and understand how it can become an instrument of territorial development and innovation.

        In this sense, Expo 2015 is emblematic, not only for its capacity to revive the image of the city of Milan, but also in terms of the method by which the city managed to plan the future of the fairgrounds site, which is now seeing the birth of an innovation hub. The case of Milan shows the importance of public and private collaboration and synergies. This was made possible through a publicly controlled intermediary actor – Arexpo, the owner of the site – with a mission to promote dialogue between investors and public administrations.

        Streamlined procedures and assurances of the final completion of the projects involved remain crucial to attracting international skills and capital. While the public administration’s guiding role is a given, the private sector is called upon to contribute innovation, risk capital and market orientation. Firms with public participation or control can facilitate dialogue and the creation of synergies. Fundamental in the period following the Milan Expo was the attraction of prominent public entities such as the Milan University and Human Technopole, which led the way for private investors.

        The Expo 2015 model can surely be studied and replicated, with due adjustments, in other areas, such as Rome for example, which is a candidate for the 2030 Expo, which will follow on the heels of the 2025 Vatican Jubilee. A significant opportunity for the renewal of the capital city, slated for unprecedented investments from the National Recovery and Resiliency Plan (PNRR).

        The goal of these and other future scenarios remains that of creating value not only for the public and private actors involved, but also for the broader society. Triggering a virtuous cycle that sees in the renewal of the territory an opportunity for widespread development and opportunity for citizens. Moreover, it is a way to build consensus around the transformative undertakings that will surely be involving cities for years to come.

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