"Surf and Turf” Journey and Sustainable Historic Districts

Through the Sustainable Historic Districts (SUSHI) project, which departs from a holistic approach to address common challenges in the historic districts of six cities from five EU Mediterranean countries, stakeholders from Nicosia will work together, within a shared framework, to change their historic district towards a more sustainable, climate resilient and inclusive one, through innovative integrated solutions and social change.

SUSHI in Portugal

The Portuguese historic district Alfama is currently facing significant challenges due to the considerable number of tourists that visit the district every day. This increasing trend has resulted in the loss of traditional local business for daily supplies such as groceries shops, replaced by tourist stores, and also in the loss in the community spirit, which has led to a less inclusive district. Furthermore, tourist activity produces a great amount of waste, which is difficult to manage. The district is characterized by steep narrow streets, creating mobility and accessibility issues for the residents, especially the ones with limited mobility like the elderly, which represent a significant part of the district’s population. There is also a lack of climate resilient urban spaces, such as shade or green spaces. The Climate-KIC project – Sustainable Historic Districts is currently working to develop sustainable solutions to address these challenges, always having in mind the goals of climate change mitigation and circular economy.

The Climate-KIC Journey “The Surf and Turf” that took place in Lisbon, from 1 to 10 of July, is an education program that provides its participants with skills to create innovative solutions to tackle climate change. In an effort to leverage the evident connection between the goals of the project and the Journey, the SUSHI partners took the Journey participants for a visit to Alfama and asked them, in a structured session, to approach the historic districts challenges from the perspective of tourists. Valuable proposals and insights around the development of a living lab to foster innovation for the transformation of the district, and around circular solutions were discussed and pitched.

According the project partners, it was a very positive and fruitful experience, as the participants contributed with relevant visions that will strengthen the work developed in the project. The SUSHI partners were inspired by the participants’ interest and positive spirit, as well as their ability to find out-of-the-box solutions and perspectives regarding the challenges that we have presented, which opened new doors in how the Alfama team (FCT NOVA and Lisboa E-Nova) can approach and tackle the problems currently at hand. The participants insights will be taken into account in the creation of the living lab and also in the development of a circular economy local plan that are being set, particularly in the selection of the different areas which the plan will focus on, as part of a stakeholder consultation practice, and in the selection of the best suited solutions.

SUSHI in Cyprus

A strategic plan and vision for the transition of the historic centre of Nicosia into a smart, sustainable region, needs to be developed. Nonetheless, the success of developing and implementing this plan, relies at a great extent to the involvement of all stakeholders of the quadruple helix from the beginning: government and local authorities, academic and research community, businesses and citizens.

Nicosia puts the community participation in the foreground of this project, but at the same time it aims to gain the ‘know-how’ to address other challenges. Creating a shared vision and a common strategy means that opinions, concerns, ideas and recommendations of all stakeholders are taken into account. This increases the acceptance and ownership of the strategic plan and the proposed concrete actions and gives to the procedure a sense of bottom-up incorporation. The creation of a shared vision requires a variety of resources, tools and methodologies such as surveys, meetings, focus groups, open dialogue with stakeholders, and development of online platforms to share thoughts and ideas.

Currently, the work developed in Nicosia, is based on the community participation and the community engagement. Citizens were called to evaluate the ‘Quality of Life in the Historic Center of Nicosia’, through a targeted questionnaire. The analysis of these results, as well as the assessment of the structured environment, will determine the next steps and actions for Nicosia, which aims to implement a pilot, based on Nature-Based Solutions, to improve deprived areas and to reclaim a space for the citizens. The ultimate target is to upscale these results, raise awareness, and if successful, to prepare for future funding and long term development.

As the Journey aims to offer a unique combination of academic study & real-world experience, it was combined with the above regional activities of the Sustainable Historic Districts Projects with emphasis on the need for community engagement. In specific, during the 1st week of the Journey, participants are called to explore the host’s location and discover how the system operates; in this case it was the historic district of Nicosia [city within the walls]. The participants were informed about the basic characteristics of the city, the challenges and the opportunities, and were encouraged to go out to the ‘field’ , talk to citizens and come back with information on new opportunities, challenges and key assets based on what they observed. However, the most important it was that they were asked to bring back a quote from the citizens, either it was a new idea, a complaint or something as simple as a memory!

The participants came back with dozens of quotes, ideas and suggestions for improvements from the citizens, providing an insight which was more than anticipated! Their active participation and commitment offered SUSHI partners the opportunity to reach dozens of people in just few hours and to hear all their input and their views on the subject. All the acquired information was used during the rest of the day to identify solutions based on nature for the historic centre and resulted to a fruitful conversation and exchange of knowledge. The outcomes of Journey will be included in the regional activities which are being planned.