Lessons from Europe for America’s older industrial cities
On June 14, the GMF invited guest speakers from four traditionally industrial European cities to demonstrate how they have succeeded in modernizing their economies and restoring their urban centers. The case studies from Turin, Lille, Amsterdam, and Leipzig provided insight into methods from which many of America's older industrial cities could benefit while making the transition to a 21st century marketplace.
Dr. Filippo De Pieri of the Politecnico di Torino demonstrated how the winning bid of Turin, Italy, for the 2006 Winter Olympics provided the catalyst for transforming the city's identity from that of a former industrial pole in economic decline to a vibrant urban center. While Turin had renovated its FIAT factories for post-industrial use by this time, the prospect of hosting the Winter Olympics accelerated the completion of numerous projects already initiated including the burying of the city's rail lines, the construction of a high-speed train connecting Turin with Milan, and the reconstruction and renovation of many urban buildings.
Dr. Denis Bocquet of the Laboratory for Technology, Territories, and Societies (LATTS) and the Centre National des Recherches Scientifiques (CNRS) discussed how Lille, France is confronting the decline of its textile industry. In recent years, the city has pursued several strategies for both retaining its reputation as a textile pole and attracting investment to the region, notably by taking advantage of its unique location near the English Channel and at a crossroads between Paris, London, and Brussels.
Dr. Evert Verhagen of the District Council of Westerpark, through his own experience renovating the derelict Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam, Netherlands, provided his view of the universal elements essential to successful development. In addition to the chief priorities of residents that a neighborhood be "safe, clean, and green", developments should always be envisioned in the long term and provide the necessary infrastructure to maintain growth.
Dr. Hinrich Lehmann-Grube, former mayor of Leipzig, Germany, portrayed how the East German city, emerging from a communist regime, adapted to the free market by playing on its traditional economic strengths and its geographic situation as a crossroads between Berlin, Dresden, and the former West Germany. Since the fall of the Berlin wall, Leipzig has successfully restored its trade fair and media industries while also establishing its presence as a logistics and fine arts center.