How shopping malls can help regenerate historic city centres

By Mike  McDonough

How shopping malls can help regenerate historic city centres

EBRD shares expertise on retail projects in UNESCO World Heritage sites

Modern retail developments are about much more than shopping. They are focal points for local communities and, thanks to the jobs and infrastructure they create, increasingly serve as vectors for the regeneration of urban areas, including historic city centres.

Through its projects in two UNESCO World Heritage cities – Lviv in Ukraine and Yaroslavl in the Russian Federation – the EBRD has gained expertise in developing retail centres in historic urban areas, in addition to its extensive experience of supporting retail projects in other cities throughout our region of operations.

Now this expertise is available for others to use thanks to a new report that sets down some of the key findings from our experiences in Lviv, Yaroslavl and other cities. The report, which was funded by the EBRD Shareholder Special Fund, also features examples of successful retail development projects financed by other agencies.

“This report is intended for developers, municipalities and civil society organisations and aims to help them make informed decisions together to create sustainable retail development projects in historic cities,” said Alistair Clark, Managing Director of the EBRD’s Environment and Sustainability Department, which advised on the report.

The new document emphasises the need for developers to involve municipal officials and consult with stakeholders such as local residents and businesses, conservation groups and other civil society organisations, cultural heritage and environmental professionals and planners.

This is important for reducing the likelihood of conflict: the report identifies lack of transparency in the decision-making process and poor design as frequent motives for protests over retail developments.

In Lviv and Yaroslavl, the EBRD put this collaborative principle into practice by organising workshops that brought together investors, city officials and members of the public to discuss how the retail projects in those locations could benefit local communities.

“In each city, this was a rare opportunity for stakeholders to have a discussion and find a mutually beneficial way forward,” said EBRD Principal Environmental Advisor Nobuko Ichikawa, who worked on both projects. “In many of the EBRD’s countries of operations, this collaborative approach is new and it was a learning experience for all the parties involved.”

In Lviv, Dutch developer Multi Corporation B.V. underlined its commitment to the local community by inviting local engineering and architecture students to see the construction site of the Forum Lviv shopping mall, which will be the first commercial building in Ukraine with Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM) certification. Multi also organised a competition for the design of the mall floor and plans to stage a job fair advertising the employment opportunities that the mall will offer local people once it opens.

The report’s emphasis on valuing cultural heritage as assets and on consulting with stakeholders stems from the EBRD’s Environmental and Social Policy and in particular its Performance Requirement (PR) 8 on Cultural Heritage.

“While the Forum Lviv retail centre drives urban re-generation as an anchor investment, it will also provide local citizens with a valuable new public space which, through smart and sustainable design, is carefully woven into the historic fabric of this city,” said Senior Banker Vlaho Kojakovic from the EBRD’s Property and Tourism team.

“In this and other ways, the project goes far beyond creating commercial space.”