Like Charleroi, Namur or Liège, more and more Walloon municipalities are planning to introduce a ULP, an Urban Lifestyle Point.
In spite of many urban renovations and revitalisations, urban city centres still have lifeless spaces, that are used little or poorly. Transforming these deserted places is often done at the expense of the real and concrete aspirations of the population that will be likely to use it. At the risk of having beautiful but empty spaces, not used by the inhabitants and rapidly degrading. This spiral of urban areas without an identity feeds into the lack of attractiveness of a neighbourhood and penalises an entire city.
There is a precise marketing method that can transform these spaces into pleasant and lively spaces. In 2011 the concept was introduced in Belgium by the “Association du Management de Centre-Ville” (AMCV), which wants to turn our cities back into lively centres once again. Its name? The Urban Lifestyle Point (ULP).
This concept comes from the States and Australia and wants to give back public space to the inhabitants, so they can make use of it. The ULP consists in explicitly managing a public space and giving it value, in the marketing sense of the word. “It is a well-defined space that corresponds to a specific community of users or consumers thanks to a management, animation or development action“, explains the AMCV.
A city that lives
For the urban environment to be relevant, it must put people at the heart of the project, says the AMCV. “Urban planning is not something that is invented in offices but by involving citizens, insists Jean-Luc Calonger. It is essential for people to appropriate spaces and make them come alive.”
In Gembloux, after some development, a street is springing back to life and businesses are coming back. In Tournai, the inhabitants of place Verte meet around large containers of aromatic plants and thanks to a participatory approach three playgrounds have been created. In La Louvière, each summer a brownfield is transformed into a beach with palm trees, wooden terraces, a swimming pool, a giant slide and sand. “When the machine gets going, neighbours get to know one another and there is permanent social control, explains Jean-Luc Calonger. People are proud to live in their neighbourhood; they constantly come up with new ideas.“