Smart strategic planning in multiethnic environments: Mazara del Vallo as a Mediterranean gateway city

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The paper offers a critical account of the strategic planning process carried out in Mazara del Vallo, a medium-sized Sicilian city whose development model has been characterised by the dominant role of the local fishery economy. From the 1970s onwards, the workforce employed in the fishery industry was mostly of North African origin (particularly Tunisian). In the past few years, rising economic and social processes have put into question the survival of the North African population in the city, the presence of which could be a strategic asset in light of the following future Euro-Mediterranean integration scenarios: (a) the deep crisis in the fishery sector, which is calling into question the survival of several hundred jobs for the immigrant population; and (b) the degradation of the Old Town and the ancient Canal Port, representing tangible obstacles to the diversification of the urban economy and a looming threat to local living conditions.In 2008, it was decided to start a strategic planning process aiming to radically modify the development model of the city. The strategic plan named “Mazara: Mediterranean gateway city” was developed with the intention of identifying new scenarios of urban revitalisation, linking together physical regeneration targets with strategies for the diversification of the urban economy. In such a highly problematic social context, great attention was dedicated to the creation of social capital through the mobilisation of citizens and representatives from civil society. With substantial investment in participation, the planning process has in fact pushed local communities to consider an alternative development model for the city, based on increased urban quality and new job opportunities in the cultural sector. It was therefore decided to entrust this task to three combined planning strategies: (1) investment in social participation and public communication; (2) a systematic enhancement of an integrated approach to planning and design; and (3) the intervention of development issues and places characterised by a strong symbolic character. Smart tools and other participatory techniques were used with the clear intention of making the process itself a stronger element for local society and a chance to re-establish a new, and more complex, urban identity.Through the description of the case, the present paper offers some general reflections on the role of strategic planning in such fragile contexts from a social and an economic point of view. Furthermore, it analyses the role that the planning process can play in social inclusion enhancement (particularly of immigrants) and the interplay among urban spaces, symbolic values, social cohesion and economic revitalisation.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Numero di pagine0
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2011


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