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City center revitalization and public private partnerships, lessons from foreign experiences and implications for Portugal

Carlos Jose Lopes Balsas, University of Massachusetts Amherst


It is well known that city centers are fragile places and in constant change. The construction of new commercial developments on the periphery of cities greatly influenced the decline of city centers and of the more traditional forms of retailing there installed. The increasing awareness of this reality led different forms of government to act together with merchants to channel European Union funds to modernize traditional retailing enterprises and to revitalize shopping areas in city centers. This process led to the consideration that retailing is an important element in the livability of cities in Portugal. The commercial urbanism projects financed by the PROCOM Program created for the first time in Portugal a large debate about the importance of commercial planning and commercial revitalization of the city centers. The need to increase the private sector participation in this collective effort, as well as the need to find additional sustainable financing, besides the public subsidies, makes critical the call for proper answers to a more adequate and effective commercial revitalization of city centers. Given the fact that the commercial development on the outskirts of cities is not a unique Portuguese phenomenon, it is important and timely to reflect about foreign experiences in this area. The main objective of this dissertation is to discuss and analyze foreign experiences, mainly North American and British, in terms of commercial revitalization, the creation of public-private partnerships and city center management and present how they can relate to the Portuguese experience. The research methods involved literature reviews, comparative analyses, case studies, semi-structured interviews, meeting observations and a discussion of the implications for the Portuguese reality. The conclusion shows an updated knowledge of international best practices in terms of the creation and implementation of city center management partnerships. Finally, the recommendation section presents a set of proposals and principles that can be useful to Portuguese policy makers in the development and implementation of the second generation of commercial urbanism projects.

Subject Area

Urban planning|Area planning & development

Recommended Citation

Balsas, Carlos Jose Lopes, "City center revitalization and public private partnerships, lessons from foreign experiences and implications for Portugal" (2004). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3136709.