The politics of urban regeneration: coalitions and shifting power relations around Valparaiso’s city waterfront

Authors: Rodrigo Caimanque Leverone*, University College London
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Latin America
Keywords: Urban Regeneration, Urban Politics, social contestation
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Calvert Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Since 1995, several state-led strategies have been developed to regenerate the port-city of Valparaiso, Chile, to overcome its long-term process of deprivation. Framed by the city’s declaration as World Heritage Site and an emergent tourism industry, the waterfront regeneration represented a significant institutional effort aimed to reach the so-called urban renaissance. However, this locally-based idea moved towards a controversial proposal led by the owner of the land, the Port Authority: a privately developed commercial project, named 'Puerto Baron'. This paper analyses the socio-political processes underpinning this project, unveiling how political and economic forces built coalitions and mobilize resources to make it both feasible and profitable. To ensure the mall materialization, the entrepreneurial coalition(s) focused on several tasks within the institutional frameworks aimed to produce further accumulation, from planning modifications to special incentives favouring the developers. The waterfront project was the outcome of several interests responding to a regional/national scale political economy rather than the city needs. Nevertheless, the action of several organizations contesting the project under the campaign 'No al Mall Baron', has been fundamental to delay the beginning of its construction. Later, the election of a left-wing mayor out of the country’s two historical hegemonic political blocs, and against the mall, produced a shifting point regarding the project's future. These intertwined moments were a key factor for the withdrawal of the project in 2018. The case highlights the importance of urban politics in city-making, reconfiguring power relations within governance, and triggering new challenges towards socially inclusive urban spaces.

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