Limassol (CY) has had new life breathed into it as a result of several major urban regeneration projects to improve the city's historic centre, seafront, and other areas. Over 15 years, the environment and quality of life have been improved and the city's marketability and competitiveness boosted. As a result, new businesses have opened and new jobs created. The regeneration projects have improved the attractiveness and air quality of commercial and residential areas. The local economy has been boosted as the city's new look attracts more visitors. Residents of the city - and the wider metropolitan area - have also benefited. As the city became more attractive, its public places increasingly became meeting places for social activities. The projects have helped preserve the cultural identity of Limassol's historic centre by highlighting its traditional architecture: old buildings have been restored and are now used for cultural, educational and residential purposes.
Τoday’s European approach towards cities’ design supports the principle of utilising the existing building and environmental inventory and returning to the centres to deal with the crisis and urban development problems. Initiatives and actions are not confined to the narrow context of physical development and the urban environment but extend to economic and social issues. A sustainable city is characterised by a robust environment, economy and social welfare system.
Based on the above, the Area Plan for Limassol City Centre determined the functional structures, permitted land use and pedestrian modules and creation of open spaces, all within an existing and structurally defined area, and all were converted to opportunities for successful sustainable urban development. Among the objectives leading to the exploitation of opportunities were the following:
• The completion and modernisation of the basic infrastructure to respond to the enhanced requirements for the safety, health and comfort of citizens;
• The creation of areas of special interest characterizing the city;
• The implementation of traffic management measures with an emphasis on pedestrian, bicycle and bus transport and the simultaneous discouraging of vehicular traffic;
• Exploitation of the urban free spaces/squares and their contribution to the city’s social life by using them as gathering places for events, activities and rest and relaxation;
• The identification and promotion of monuments;
• A combination of old and new.
Limassol’s practice contributes to the sustainable and integrated approach as it applies horizontal integration for interventions that combine physical, economic, social and environmental dimensions and vertical integration in terms of cooperation among all levels of government and local and EU actors. An initial stage of the preparation and adoption of the Strategic Plan for an Integrated Sustainable Urban Development to solve problems like abandoned spaces, city planning, disadvantaged neighbourhoods, urban mobility, culture and heritage, strategic planning and urban renewal was crucial, because it led to a strategic and also to a cooperative and participatory approach. Based on the above, the practice implemented in Limassol changed the city into a more sustainable urban living space as the development was accompanied by measures designed to reduce poverty, social exclusion and environmental problems. This integrated approach brought together social and economic actors to implement physical, economic, social and environmental actions, and the integrated development thus promoted a genuine solution to complex urban problems. The overall city planning strategy was followed and the objectives of the Plan were achieved: the redevelopment, upgrading and sustainable evolution of the centre of Limassol by maintaining its own symbolism and character. The implementation of the Plan contributed to the urban make-up and revival of the city centre.
The Local Authority was financially unable to undertake this huge restructuring intervention consisting of large infrastructure projects, due to its limited budget. State involvement, semi-government organisations and private sector initiatives were essential. Methods such as ΒΟΤ, ΡΡΡ and others proved to be particularly efficient.
Additionally, co-financing from the European Union was also crucial, wherever feasible. Specifically, in the projects development and implementation, there was a significant and undisputed participation on the part of:
• The Town Planning and Housing Department, for the preparation of the Area Plan for Limassol Centre;
• Limassol Municipality, which undertook the responsibility of building the main infrastructure projects in the city centre and on the seafront;
• The private sector, which promoted Limassol Marina;
• The Cyprus Ports Authority, which was responsible for the regeneration of the old port;
• The state, which contributed to the financing of some of the projects;
• Building owners, for the restoration of their buildings;
• The Archaeological Department, which contributed to the restoration of archaeological buildings and sites;
• The Cyprus University of Technology, which undertook the restoration of buildings to accommodate the university faculties;
• The bus company, which renewed its fleet;
• The Chamber of Commerce and the public, who expressed their opinions on the plans and designs during public presentations.
A New Era: Limassol flourishes again as a coastal city.
The positive results have already materialised as, despite the economic crisis plaguing the country, the centre of the city is one of the very few areas in Cyprus exhibiting growth and development. The reason is that, in addition to the areas of recreation and entertainment that were created for a young population, a large number of residential units have also been developed, attracting many residents to the centre of Limassol – a trend that would have seemed far removed 10 years ago. The active city planning aim of qualitative social improvement and round-the-clock activity in the centre of the city – in essence revitalising it both socially and economically –
has been achieved.
A number of quality comforts, facilities and installations for public recreation and relaxation included in the projects have made the centre a unique area whose reputation has spread across Cyprus. The local character and colour of Limassol was also conserved and promoted. The city now offers greater hospitality, freshness and an open-hearted atmosphere, which is mainly felt during the warm Mediterranean summer and autumn days and nights. It is relaxing and offers peace of mind. Beyond the social parameters, the city centre has been enhanced through the restoration of old and abandoned buildings, providing a higher standard of built environment.
We strongly believe that Limassol’s good practice is interesting for other European cities as many of them face similar problems. Limassol’s good practice has achieved the desired results and can be recommended as a model. With the reuse of good practice, other cities will improve their own integrated urban policies and the delivery of these policies on the ground. Limassol’s good practice addresses issues widely faced by cities, offers practical and result-oriented solutions and applies a sustainable and integrated approach to tackling urban challenges. It is a participatory approach in both project development and implementation, involving all relevant stakeholders, is well-documented and has made a visible and measurable difference to the city and in the wider metropolitan area. The practice can easily be adopted and amended by any other European city. Details for comparison and adoption are available concerning the cost and the financing methods. It is a long-term practice that is still operating in Limassol. Our experience is conditional upon certain prerequisites that are valid not only for European coastal cities that are experiencing similar fiscal and climatic conditions to Cyprus but for every European city with a significant cultural background.