Negotiating participatory regeneration in the post-socialist inner city
Urban regeneration in Poland was not an issue until 1989. During the socialist period, apart from the post-World War Two city reconstruction rush, urban regeneration policies did not exist. The political and economic upheaval after 1989, however, did not bring much change in urban policy for the next two decades. While municipalities gradually regained independence, they also had to shoulder an increasing financial burden. This, together with a lack of adequate legislation, resulted in a sluggish pace for urban regeneration across the whole country. Poland’s accession to the EU in 2004 provided new funding possibilities, but also raised questions about the strategic aims of regeneration. Using the example of Wrzeszcz Dolny, a district in Gdansk, this chapter discusses the new residents’ leading role in the initiation of bottom-up regeneration efforts as well as their impact on integration and activation of the local community. According to the results of our qualitative research such processes were more effective than any top-down undertakings within the same period, while the risk of undesirable effects of classical gentrification were minimized. Furthermore, the grass-roots involvement of local citizens finally led to their inclusion in the EU-funded regeneration program. The chapter ends with implications for future policy and practice in urban regeneration, drawing on the key contention that an appreciation that both top-down and bottom-up approaches should be treated as complementary and their combination could serve as an innovative model of post-socialist urban regeneration.