Opengela started in May 2019 to produce a model of replicable local offices which serve neighbourhoods during their urban regeneration processes, and more specifically, with the refurbishment of their buildings. Now, having crossed the halfway mark of the project, the offices in the two pilot neighbourhoods are up and running, works are beginning to take place on local buildings and several Basque municipalities have taken note of the initiative and have expressed their interest in replicating the model.
The project, funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme, has focused on two pilots in the neighbourhoods of Otxarkoaga (Bilbao) and Txonta (Eibar). Opengela is expected to last three years and to be replicated in other municipalities within the Basque Country. Durango and Lasarte, in particular, have already shown interest, as have Vitoria-Gasteiz, San Sebastián and Pasaia. Subsequently, the Opengela model can be used amongst the rest of the Basque Country and scaled to the European level.
The urban, sustainable, and social dimension
The ultimate goal of the programme is to promote deep renovations, greater energy efficiency, improved accessibility, and the incorporation of fire protection and safety systems in the oldest or most needy neighbourhoods in the Basque Country, thereby reversing the conditions which can lead to urban vulnerability.
This project takes the social dimension into special consideration. «The focus is on people and neighbourhoods, making them part of the process», explains Ignacio de la Puerta, Director of Territorial Planning and Urban Agenda of the Basque Government’s Department of Territorial Planning, Housing and Transport, who is leading the project.
The launch of Opengela coincides with a crucial moment in which the Renovation Wave Strategy is being promoted by the European Union. «The current moment», emphasises De la Puerta, «is (an ideal time to) take advantage of the opportunity and put building renovation projects and comprehensive urban regeneration of neighbourhoods on the country’s list of priorities through specific projects. This will not only help us to invest today in a green, digital and fair recovery, but will also prepare us for the demands that – by European mandate – are just around the corner.”
In addition to the Department of Territorial Planning, Housing and Transport of the Basque Government, this project is an example of public-private collaboration, as it includes eight other partners: the local urban development companies of the two municipalities (Viviendas Municipales de Bilbao and the Gipuzkoa-based Debegesa), the Basque Energy Agency (EVE), a company specialising in financing (GNE Finance), one in European affairs (Zabala), another in communication (Gabineteseis), and two European organisations based in Brussels, namely the Federation of Energy and Environment Agencies and Regions (Fedarene) and the European Federation of Public, Cooperative and Social Housing (Housing Europe).
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