Revitalizing the downtown area with the citizen consultation
Tuesday, February 2, 2021
Downtowns** have suffered a strong desertification in recent years to the benefit of outside projects and online commerce. And the Covid-19 crisis has only made the task more complex for its managers! However, 72% of French people are strongly attached to them, according to the latest barometer of the association centre-ville en mouvement. And what if one of the solutions to reinvigorate the city center was to involve the inhabitants in this land use planning?
This is the choice that the town of Thionville has made with success, thanks to the citizen consultation.
Local authorities are more attentive to users' opinions
Several measures and reports have emerged in recent years to develop the attractiveness of city centers: the [Action cœur de ville] plan (https://www.cohesion-territoires.gouv.fr/programme-action-coeur-de-ville) in France or the implementation of [city center management cells] (https://emploi.wallonie.be/home/developpement-local/gestion-centre-ville.html) in Wallonia. While these initiatives are to be welcomed, they nevertheless seem to overlook a key player in local authorities: their users.
Re-enchanting the heart of the city means above all recreating a close link with the public. This involves, of course, combating shopping vacancies, building and renovating housing, improving parking, etc. But first and foremost, it means creating an environment where the public can feel at home. But first and foremost, by listening to the needs and priorities of those who live there. The current crisis confronts us with an inevitable evolution of consumer habits, in the face of which innovative solutions must be found.
Simple digital and participatory tools exist to collect citizens' opinions and involve them in local decisions. A citizen consultation platform such as Fluicity offers several devices in this sense: survey, questionnaire, call for ideas, participative budget, etc.
The digital format makes it possible to solicit citizens' opinions remotely, to reach a larger population than by limiting oneself to public meetings and to easily analyze citizens' opinions (respondents' profiles, preferences, most popular ideas, etc.), without them being scattered on blogs or social networks
The proof by example, with the municipality of Thionville.
Thionville tests its project to revitalize the city center before committing costs
**To revitalize its city center, Thionville's elected officials wanted to propose a project that would win the adhesion of its citizens. An idea was born: to offer free wifi in the main shopping streets.
But how could they be sure that it really met the expectations of the inhabitants? Thanks to Fluicity, the city set up an online survey and submitted its idea to users before deploying it. A success!
Image of Thionville's citizen consultation on the city center in a mobile screen](Capture-de_cran-2021-02-02-a_-15.53.23.png)
- 420 inhabitants registered immediately on Fluicity's online consultation tool to answer the survey or follow the results,
- that is 14 times more citizens involved in the local democracy than usual**,** and
- 80% of citizens voted "For" free wi-fi. A clear endorsement of this program.
The mayor was able to implement his downtown revitalization project knowing it would have an impact.
Once the online platform was launched, further consultations on downtown commerce and local life followed, to continue the development work.
The survey is very useful to quickly get the opinion of the inhabitants and to reinforce the legitimacy of our decisions. Fluicity allowed me to easily integrate participative democracy in the functioning of our city.
Pierre Cuny, Mayor of Thionville
****Involve citizens in the revitalization of city centers with the participatory project ****
Citizen consultation has the advantage of being adaptable to projects of any scale and duration, which makes it a major asset in regional planning.
Read: 3 ways to involve citizens in land use planning
To promote the attractiveness of city centers, local elected officials can organize several "democratic sequences" (to use Jo Spiegel's term), and conduct their project step by step. The panel of devices allows them to progress gradually in the implementation, to rely on the feedback of citizens, and to incur costs where they are really useful.
- start with a survey, to highlight the priorities of the inhabitants: parking, housing, security, desertification of stores...?
results: analysis of opinion trends, prioritization of projects, precise diagnosis..._
- then one or more calls for ideas on these identified themes.
results: analysis of the most popular ideas, emergence of innovative and collective solutions.
- possibly, other opinion survey(s) on specific elements of the project (pedestrianization of a shopping street, installation of a bicycle path, parking project on the outskirts, etc.)
→ results: key milestones are validated by citizens throughout the downtown development project._
A "participatory project" like this one allows communities to frame their approach, control the timeline and budget envelope, while benefiting from user support.
Would you like to be accompanied in your participatory process and imagine the ideal approach to revitalize the downtown area of your community? Let's discuss it together!