Cities are more and more analysed as being part of broader urban networks. But does the context of a network society – as defined by Manuel Castells – have an influence on local planning processes? The literature on networks is rapidly expanding; yet urban scholars know very little about the influence of this context on the micro-politics of planning. More research is needed on the ways urban stakeholders use specific networks to influence the evolution of a given urban area. Associated with this challenge of rethinking governance models, is the need to answer the following question: Who is in charge of the production of urbanity in the contemporary city? Conventional top-down planning has become difficult to achieve and interactive forms of governance supplement traditional government institutions and representative democracy (Sehested, 2009). This context broadens opportunities for new non-institutionalised social actors to play an active role in current planning processes.
This research studies the regeneration strategies of a group of non-institutionalised stakeholders in the Arts District in the downtown area of Los Angeles. In the absence of real engagement from institutionalised actors, this group of new entrepreneurs (e.g., Creative Spaces, Linear City, business owners) has developed an innovative regeneration process based on the adaptive re-use of industrial buildings. Adaptive re-use can be defined as “a process to ameliorate the financial, environmental and social performance of buildings...that changes a disused or ineffective item into a new item that can be used for a different purpose” (Bullen and Love, 2010: 215).
This process involves the creation of socially responsible new businesses and work spaces for artists (see picture below), as well as for companies from the creative sector.
An abandoned industrial building transformed into an exhibition space for artists
Source: The author
The regeneration process relies very much on professional networks; the group of new entrepreneurs is active in enrolling actors outside the District in the regeneration process. They use their professional networks at the national scale to attract residents and businesses from the creative sector in the Arts District. This enables them to retain an element of creativity in the neighbourhood and to promote an innovative regeneration process based on the adaptive re-use of industrial buildings. The research highlights the use of social networks and “spaceless” interactions active in the production of contemporary urbanity. Furthermore, this research encourages urban scholars to look beyond endogenous interactions to consider the external networks that contribute to the transformation of a given urban area.
Bullen PA and Love PD (2010) The rhetoric of adaptive reuse or reality of demolition: views from the field. Cities 27: 215-224.
Castells M (2009) Communication Power. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sehested K (2009) Urban Planners as Network Managers and Metagovernors. Planning Theory and Practice 10(2): 245-263.