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The starting point for the road to the ideal scenario neighbourhood

If this is not the first time you hear about the drOp project, you already know that one of the key elements is the residents’ involvement. The reason is simple: they are the ones living in the neighbourhood, so local authorities should listen to them, making sure they feel good at home. But how can this be done in practice? The Ermua municipality, where the Santa Ana demonstration neighbourhood is situated, carried out participatory workshops, to shape together with residents and stakeholders the future of Santa Ana.

Firstly, drOp partners met with local stakeholders and experts in a session to create possible future scenarios for Santa Ana district in 2035. Four of them were created, considering two important aspects for the development of the neighbourhood and the impact of the drOp project by 2035: empowering citizens and making them more engaged, as well as the effect of the neighbourhood’s regeneration on the expansion of the local economic activities. Every scenario took into account the following dimensions: environment, economic, socio-cultural and digital.

The worst-case scenario is Santa Ana without life’. Santa Ana in 2035 presents a vision where citizens do not feel committed to the regeneration of the neighbourhood and in which the local economy has also failed to thrive. With an increasing ageing population, common and green spaces are neglected or even non-existent. The economic activity in the neighbourhood became absent, and the value of the area has decreased, with lots of empty housing. There is no sense of community and there is a lack of interest for digitalization.

Santa Ana – Without life

Another possible scenario if the citizens are not committed with the process is the ‘Opportunities without owners’ scenario. Santa Ana in 2035 presents a vision where the regeneration process of the Santa Ana neighbourhood in 2035 has generated local economy but society has not engaged with the process and sees it as something alien to them. The environment was regenerated by the municipality, but it is not well maintained by the residents. Buildings were partially rehabilitated, only on the ground floor in the areas destined for hosting businesses. The economic activity is flourishing, but its character does not match with the neighbourhood’s identity. The residents do not really feel integrated and belonging to a community. While a good digital infrastructure exists, it is not fully used and appreciated by the residents.

Opportunities without owners

On the other side, when the neighbourhoods are fully committed with the regeneration process, we would find ‘Santa Ana engaged, seed of Ermua’. Santa Ana in 2035 presents a vision committed to neighbourhood renewal by the majority of its citizens but fails to generate a local economy or take advantage of the innovative entrepreneurial ecosystem that exists at the municipal level. Young people are interested to move into the neighbourhood, attracted by the affordable prices even if that means renovation works are needed. From an economic perspective the average income of the residents is low, in part because the neighbourhood is not attractive given its lack of accessibility in its infrastructure. The sense of community is present, and residents often come together for energy rehabilitation activities. There is an openness towards digitalisation.

Santa Ana engaged, seed of Ermua

In the best of the scenarios, there is the Santa Ana advanced community, which is a neighbourhood that fosters a sense of belonging through community collaboration. It is a green, pedestrian and, above all, accessible neighbourhood with spaces that encourage the creation of a community. The economic activity is attractive, especially because it is drive by the residents of the neighbourhood. The community and its wellbeing are one of the top priorities. Moreover, digitalisation contributes to the strengthening of the community. This ideal scenario includes urban accessibility, more green areas with outdoor and indoor living spaces and the digitalization as a tool to improve people’s quality of life as some of its key elements.

Santa Ana, advanced community

Taking these scenarios as a starting point, two additional workshops took place this October. Firstly, drOp partners met with residents from the district to envision with them a common, feasible and desirable scenario for the neighbourhood in 2035. During the second workshop, it was the time for local stakeholders from different areas of expertise and technicians of the municipality to meet. It was a co-creation session where participants started to identify lines of actions and initiatives to achieve the ideal scenario. It resulted in a very inspiring working day from which many interesting ideas emerged for a more sustainable, cohesive, and friendly Santa Ana for the neighbours. The remodelling of neighbourhood spaces, intergenerational camps, training in digital tools or awareness-raising campaigns in energy communities, could be some of the futures initiatives to be deployed in the district.

Next step: co-create with the citizens exploring their preferred course of action and projects.

*Illustrations source: https://www.freepik.es 

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NEB or when sustainability, beauty and inclusivity take over the neighbourhood