Recreate Public Spaces in Old Town Xindian Through Old Buildings Revitalization--A Citizen Empowerme
The neighborhood around Xindian Elementary School has become a deteriorated area with overcrowded residential buildings and an urban system of narrow streets. The absence of integrated planning at the time of development decades ago and complicated property ownership makes it difficult now to create public spaces for enhancing citizens’ urban living quality and the vitality of the community.
In the center of the neighborhood are the annex buildings to the School, which were originally reserved for teaching staff. The buildings became vacant due to changes in policy and socio-economic growth. The unmanaged annex buildings trigger citizens with crime concern, increasing public costs, plunging property values, and contributing to overall community decline and disinvestment.
The purposes of the project of revitalizing disused dormitory buildings are multifold. First, it aims to solve the issues of insufficient public space in the overcrowded neighborhood. Second, it aims to alleviate safety concerns related to unmanaged annex buildings. Third, it hopes to consolidate the sense of community through the participatory budgeting program. The PB program also guarantees that the revitalization project meets the actual need of the community.
After preliminary consultation with the community, the government reversed the original plans of demolishing the old dormitory buildings and rebuilding a new shopping complex. Instead, the community works to utilize the vacant buildings and its nearby neighborhood in creating public spaces allowing access for citizens of all age groups to engage and to interact with each other, through leisure activities, workshops and community building events. While the abandoned buildings are turned to public spaces with frequent visitors, the vibrancy will not only alleviate the safety/crime concerns, but also create a virtuous spill-over effect to the surrounding areas, as well as a stronger sense of community.
The project links with the UN-Habitat’s several cross-cutting issues, covering human rights, youth, and climate change.
The participatory budgeting program allows access to the planning and execution of this project for different groups of people, i.e. the youth, the seniors, the minority groups, and the community activists. The deliberation based on equal access and weighted emphasis on disadvantaged groups will ensure that the real need of the people will be met. In this process, including the PB stage, the youth are encouraged to participate and play important roles. The deliberation composed of various sessions of information, brainstorming, and training empowers the younger generation to get involved in public affairs. The educational and cultural events to be held at the renovated public space will also allow the youth to know better of the culture and history of the community, preparing them for the mission of cultural preservation and transmission.
The greenified yards and terraces of the annex buildings, as well as the surrounding areas will also benefit the people in the neighborhood. An oasis in the overcrowded residential areas allow members of the community to enjoy open space and better air. There are also proposals to incorporate climate mitigation solutions to this urban acupuncture project. Renovated sidewalks, appropriate soil and underground sewage system allow the public spaces to absorb excessive rainfall, making the community more resilient to the climate change and strike a balance of the ecosystem and urban development.