The Republic of Poland is a candidate for organization of the International EXPO 2022 in Łódź on the theme of revitalization of cities - a global challenge and condition for further development of agglomerations around the world.

Why does Łódź need revitalization?

Łódź is currently a proving ground of sorts for regeneration efforts, aimed at restoring the city to its former glory.

Revitalization is of key importance if Łódź is to conserve its heritage, and regeneration efforts currently focus on the inner-city zone as the area of the highest cultural value and the highest density of historical structures. The continued existence of a large part of the city’s historical buildings, constituting the foundation of its identity, depends on the skillful use of the material potential of Łódź’s cultural heritage to further its social and economic development, increase the conditions and quality of living of its citizens and building local identity. The objective of regeneration efforts in Łódź is to radically alter the current state of affairs where the city’s architectural, cultural, social and economic potential remains largely untapped.

Why was urban regeneration chosen as the theme of the EXPO? Isn’t this concept a bit too technical?

Revitalization is a very fresh and trendy topic that will appeal to all visitors to the EXPO regardless of where they come from.

Łódź will be the site of the first Local Centre of Expertise in Regeneration (Centre of Regeneration Competences), allowing other cities to share in the experiences of Łódź in this area.

The issue of run-down urban areas affects many cities around the world, unable to take full advantage of its potential for development, negatively affecting the quality of life of their residents. EXPO 2022 will therefore be a perfect opportunity to share not only the successes of Łódź in the field of regeneration, but also the most interesting and best solutions implemented in other cities in Poland and around the world, enabling the realisation of potential of run-down urban areas and the construction of civic cities, basing on collaboration and partnership.

Potential benefits of this lead theme of the exhibition include additional resources for urban regeneration efforts, increased awareness of Łódź in Poland and around the world as the trendsetter of innovative Polish regeneration processes and an increase of interest in Łódź among tourists as a renovated and appealing city. The bid to host EXPO 2022 in Łódź is coordinated by the Polish government and enables the participation of other cities and countries.

Aren’t there other, more important needs than revitalization?

Everyone will of course be able to list a number of needs that they believe to be more important/ valuable/necessary than revitalization.

However, the nature of regeneration is that it constitutes a unique combination of a huge number of goals and needs that will be satisfied as part of a single project.

Let’s imagine how many separate plans, designs, cost estimates, acts of law, applications and grants – not to mention time and work of many people – would be needed to satisfy such needs as: remodelling and renovating individual tenements and houses, repairing and renovating streets, renovating green areas, designing and constructing new public utility structures, modernising mass transit, stimulating young people to get involved in the life of their district or promoting and advertising Łódź as an interesting, fresh city that appeals to tourists, businesses and innovative economy. Regeneration is a single, grand project that combines all the above tasks and many more, making Łódź a better place to live in.

How much will revitalization cost?

Revitalization is an investment, not a cost.

An investment in people and infrastructure. The financial outlay connected with the regeneration of the centre of Łódź will amount to approximately PLN 4 billion, these are the needs of the city in this regard. 1 billion out of the above sum has already been reserved in the Territorial Contract. We will seek to secure the remaining funds in various competitions. We want the spending to result in increased social activity in the inner city, which would directly affect the appeal of the city.

What’s unique about Łódź in the context of regeneration?

Łódź is the only undiscovered large city in Poland!

Łódź is a city of many qualities that have for too long remained undiscovered; they must be rejuvenated and put on display for the whole world to see. It’s an extraordinary city on a European scale, its dynamic development can only be compared to the development of cities on the east coast of the United States. The inner city of Łódź is the only example in Poland of dense, valuable urban development, unchanged since the 19th century.

The structure of the inner city in Łódź is often compared to that in London, Vienna or Berlin. It encompasses almost 4 thousand tenement houses, 27 palaces, 47 mansions and 300 factories within a single area – the centre of a bustling city. Łódź will be the location of Poland’s first Local Centre of Expertise in Regeneration (Centre of Regeneration Competences), making it an absolute pioneer of Polish know-how in this field. The city’s history and architecture (industrial, residential or sacral) and dynamic cultural life stimulating its residents to collaborate and engage in local, creative activity – all of these factors mean that Łódź’s potential in the context of regeneration is enormous and extremely appealing to interested parties.

The integrated regeneration process in Łódź primarily involves comprehensive social action enabling the city to support its inhabitants in local activities and solving their problems. Strong emphasis is placed on social programs which might enable many residents of Łódź, who have long remained disenfranchised, to e.g. rejoin the workforce. As many as 20 projects will be implemented in the regenerated areas, including civic centres, centre for supporting the growth of employment among women, new community centres, orphanages, innovative residential support programs, as well as a long-term educational program in schools.

What will happen to people living in renovated tenements? Will they be able to stay there?

Revitalization is all about people.

The idea of regeneration isn’t and never will be to renovate tenements and converting them into luxury apartment buildings for the rich, which would in fact constitute the negative process of gentrification. The needs of local inhabitants are of foremost importance in all processes aimed at changing or renewing zoning approvals in various districts. Regeneration has always been a hybrid of rejuvenating the living conditions of local inhabitants and collaboration with the inhabitants themselves, accounting for their needs and abilities, stimulating them and fusing these two components into a single whole.

For example, when residents of Łódź need to move out from their abodes due to the large scope of renovation works connected with regeneration projects, they are presented with alternative flats (in need of renovation or renovated). Furthermore, if the residents earn low salaries and rent small apartments, they may apply for a housing benefit. Stimulating existing inhabitants and including new inhabitants of affected areas, combined with increasing the living conditions by rejuvenating their surroundings, is what makes regeneration successful.

Aren’t you afraid that you’re renovating a slum and it will all be soon destroyed again?

Regeneration is often unfairly associated solely with improving the technical condition of a given structure, e.g. restoring the tenement house’s façade, reconstructing the lawn, modernising the toilet, etc. In truth, regeneration is a multidimensional process (social, cultural, economic and architectural and spatial) of improving the condition of locations where negative phenomena have accumulated, such as unemployment, crime, disenfranchisement or drug abuse.

Renovation and rejuvenation of architectural components is only a small part of the regeneration process. The essence of regeneration is to manage the rejuvenation of the city so as to stimulate its inhabitants to care for the urban space, participate in its renovation and development and take responsibility for its future.
 
The history of urban regeneration in Europe and other continents shows that renovated and rejuvenated spaces encourage local residents to create new, local initiatives, such as small businesses and cultural and neighbourhood projects, with the help of urban activists and appropriate stimulation programs. Close relations between inhabitants directly translate into a permanent and stable improvement in the quality of the surroundings and living in the district or residential area. They will also attract new residents to the area, which is an essential component of regeneration processes.

How will collaboration with architects work – how will the city choose architects to participate in the process?

We believe that regeneration is a process that takes optimal advantage of local conditions, strengthens local potentials and is primarily carried out in collaboration with the local community and for its benefit.

Architecture, which makes up the urban tissue together with green areas, street furniture and cultural life, is an important part of regeneration, which is why we invite the best architects and experts from around the world to participate in open architectural competitions.

Are there any Polish examples of successful regeneration efforts that can be used as a good source of experience?

How about in Łódź itself?

Łódź can already boast successes in modern regeneration in the social and architectural complex, e.g. the former Izrael Poznański’s factory complex, the New Centre of Łódź program (an area of 100 ha in the very centre of the city, including the former EC1 power plant complex, more than 100 years old), the gorgeous effects of the work done in the district of Księży Młyn or the City of Tenements, a program involving the renovation of tenement houses located in the centre of the city, constituting the initial stage of area regeneration in inner Łódź. Other Polish cities that have implemented highly successful regeneration processes include Wrocław (regeneration of Nadodrze district), Warsaw (regeneration of Praga-Północ district between 2005 and 2014), Bydgoszcz (inclusion of residents, tenants and property owners in the process of increasing the visual appeal of the Stare Miasto district) or Gdańsk (Letnica, where wide-ranging social oriented efforts were implemented as part of the regeneration process).