The week I spent in Kiev working on ideas for a derelict industrial site flew by in a flash. It was a week of hard work and incredibly fast learning. Now I finally have a chance to digest what happened and share lessons and experiences.
The case we looked at (called “Frunze 35” –after the street address of the plot) was as challenging as it was exciting. The unique history and location of the site suggested that it has high potential for regeneration.
Figure 1. The regeneration site in relation to surrounding areas
Despite its potential there are several reasons why nothing has happened on the site so far. The site is still designated for industrial use and change of use procedures are a black box in Ukraine. The main building is protected as a heritage site, yet no one really knows which parts of it should be retained. There is no interest in the site from the municipality (city district) or the city government and very few locals recognise its significance. The reconstruction costs for the site are already sky-high and without public sector assistance, the additional red-tape and infrastructure costs make any investment unviable. The current owner, a well-known businessman, philanthropist and art-collector, planned to turn the site into a modern-art museum, but the cost and uncertainty were just too high.
Figure 2. Current state of the site
The challenge was to construct a viable proposal that will make best use of the site’s heritage whilst serving local needs. Our final proposal recommended that the site should be brought back to life through a combination of an organic community-led approach and a more structured Public-Private Partnership approach be used in order to build momentum and interest in the site and thus limit the risks of investing into the site.
In the early stages of the process the proactive engagement of local community groups would be required to unlock the site, clean it up and begin to use it as an outdoor event venue. The goal is to make it a new destination in the city, highlight its potential to the local government and to investors and lay the foundation for comprehensive regeneration.
We decided against being too prescriptive about the final mix of uses on the site. We tried to identify the potential of the space and see possibility for private use (shops, offices, workshops, cafes) and public use (markets, open space, venues open to community groups). The final proposal recognised that the combination of uses would be largely dictated by the nature of the partnership arrangement and will emerge through interaction between community groups, local government and investors.
Figure 3. Possible mix of uses on the site
Only time will tell whether our proposal becomes the catalyst for regenerating the site or simply gathers dust on a shelf. Whatever the outcome I learned a lot during the week, and some of these lessons are applicable to the UK:
Being a part of this process was inspiring and I will share the lessons I learned from it in my next blog.
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