A vaccine for the sick city

The main cities of Europe enter the UCI again. The approval of desperate measures to contain the pandemic will sacrifice thousands of jobs in urban centers, some indefinitely. Who else who less has already learned that the temporary expression two weeks it is a euphemism used by administrations on the threshold of applying restrictions that are going to last considerably longer.

When it comes to reputation, the global ranking is once again equal to the bottom. Daily life has vanished as restaurants and cafes did. The light remains dim but still on of culture, which adapts in an unsuspected way to this hostile environment, as demonstrated by the Latin American Literature Festival at the Lata Peinada del Raval bookstore that has brought debates to the streets to survive. But London, Paris, Berlin or Barcelona are, without a doubt, a shadow of what they were.

Some cities, such as those in northern Italy, have fared better in terms of image, although they do not claim victory because the virus revolves against those who give it up. Others have been placed in the worst possible spotlight, such as Madrid, given over to an exclusive sovereignty That erodes your global brand and distances you from policies that work reasonably well elsewhere.

The historic offices of the Post Office in Madrid and Barcelona could not have had a more different destination

In any case, a question arises: Is it worth worrying about the international reputation of a city at a time when its streets are filled with people without resources that they look for the life selling what is in public way to subsist?

Unfortunately for local governments, there is no other option but to try to square the circle: promote short-term policies to address the social emergency, while at the same time ceasing to plan a city of the future where people earn a living with dignity. And if it can be through projects that, in addition to creating jobs and regenerating the urban fabric, improve the reputation of the metropolis, the better.

From time to time opportunities like this arise, ideas that require a slow process of maturation and that when they are substantiated they find a more propitious scenario than could be foreseen at first. And you have to take advantage of it.

The Deputy Mayor Jaume Collboni, the Mayor Ada Colau, the Minister Jose Luis Ábalos, the President of the Post Office, Juan Manuel Serrano and the delegate of the Free Trade Zone Consortium, Pere Navarro, during the formalization of the agreement at the Post Office. / DAVID ZORRAKINO-EP

One of these projects is the one that started this week in the Post Office building in Ciutat Vella. The transfer of the property to the city will be followed by the implementation of part of its dependencies by technology companies and start-ups, which will mean expanding the positive effect of Barcelona Tech City at Pier01.

A relevant aspect of the agreement is that it is signed by a mayor, Ada Colau, whose party came to the municipal government with a critical discourse with public-private collaboration. The general director of Barcelona Global, Mateu Hernández, adds to this appreciation the symbolism of the fact that a Madrid mayor of the PP, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, converted the historic Post Office building into the city hall of the capital and that, instead , the Barcelona equivalent of that building is now going to house private companies after an agreement signed by a left-wing city council.

The bases for the development of the project are established. No one doubts that the best remedy to combat premature aging in Ciutat Vella –The center has suddenly fallen 40 years on– it is the return of economic activity. That every day people work in their buildings who at the same time consume in local restaurants and businesses, living with a tourism that should not be the only source of income again.

Furthermore, the discourse of innovation that spreads like a layer of oil through the urban fabric is one of the best that Barcelona can sell to achieve a good exterior image that helps it attract investment and talent.

The risk is that it has not been assumed that maddening slowness is no longer admissible with which these types of projects were undertaken before the pandemic. Architecture, engineering and design have found solutions that allow us to adapt old buildings with a speed and a price that were previously unthinkable.

With due respect for all labor and legal guarantees, the administration structures should also adapt to new turbulent times with the flexibility with which the self-employed and salaried workers who try to get out of the escape room what their lives have become since March.

Has Barcelona responded well to the Covid-19 crisis?

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