Until now the Rotterdam urban fabric seems to be flexible enough to absorb the first spatial impacts of the Next Economy. But to accelerate the transition, Rotterdam has a grand city renewal task ahead. An essay for the Economic Outlook Rotterdam 2017.


The Next Economy

The Next Economy transforms the city mainly behind the façade. Homes change into hotel rooms and stores in convenience stores. Office spaces are being used more flexibly for both their own staff and free lancers and schools develop low-threshold production sites. The urban fabric? has so far been flexible enough to accommodate this new economy without having to undergo major changes. However, we are only on the eve of transition.

The examples so far discussed are just a pretext of another city's use by the Next Economy. Their impact on urban fabric is low and they mainly give insights into the other requirements that entrepreneurs and residents have concerning their urban environment. The expected major impact of the next economy on the urban fabric is the enhanced sustainability of the housing stock. The scale of this urban renewal project demands a broader effect than just minor energy saving adaptations to the buildings, giving space to work on other urban themes. 

A grand urban renewal project

The Rotterdam grand urban renewal project must, in addition to housing preservation, aim at enhancing citizens' involvement (boosting the local economy) and strengthening the business environment for businesses (broader mix in neighborhoods, improved facilities, public space and accessibility). There are three conditions that are important for this project to be a success. The first is more knowledge. We do not yet know enough about the Next Economy to formulate a regional approach for the various urban themes. The urban renewal project may be formulated at a regional scale, the interventions can be local.

Secondly, in view of the growing citizen engagement, city makers and urbanists must collaborate to find the right intervention for the specific location, but always keep the regional approach in mind. No local intervention should degrate another area. Finally, the urban renewal project requires a governance that embraces it in its full complexity. The municipality has the task of formulating the project in all its facets and, in the implementation, matching the various local integrated interventions.  



For this essay, David Dooghe worked with Paul Gerretsen (Deltametropolis Association). The essay (in Dutch) can be found here