#62 - 8 January 2021

From one medium-sized city to another: an urban journey to start off the year

To broaden the horizons constrained by the sanitary crisis, La Fabrique de la Cité invites you on a virtual journey through three medium-sized French cities which its team explored in 2020: Lens, Charleville-Mézières and Vierzon.

In Lens, it is colors – black, red, and green – that best depict a city shaped by its mining history but also by the attachment and commitment of local players to their territory. Through new, innovative projects, Lens is looking to the future by affirming its centrality and increasing cooperation between the municipalities of the conurbation in order to build a common governance system in the areas of mobility, culture, and green spaces.

Cooperation is an equally fundamental element of the vision carried by Charleville-Mézières, which sees its future beyond municipal and national borders, towards Belgium and Luxemburg – in reality on the scale of the entire Ardennes massif, its cities, and its natural spaces. For Charleville-Mézières, the challenge also consists in reconquering its internal borders and divisions by redeveloping its urban wastelands.

Finally, Vierzon, an industrial city and multimodal crossroads, opens a new chapter in its urban history, with the tech industry as its protagonist. In just a few years, this industry has become central to the municipality's strategy to increase its attractiveness. Here too, high hopes are pinned on the dynamism of the municipal team and on inter-municipal synergies: as mayor Nicolas Sansu explains, “if we manage to build a real vision for the [inter-municipal] area, we will be much stronger.

While the words “revival” and “reinvention” are often used to describe the dynamics at work, the actors of medium-sized cities now need the means to fully realize their territorial projects. The examples of Lens, Charleville-Mézières, and Vierzon show to what extent a change of perspective and the creation of a new vision for territories can be vectors of metamorphosis. Are medium-sized cities creators of innovation and change? – Sarah Cosatto, Research Officer

→ Related: stay tuned in 2021 for new portraits of medium-sized cities, in France and abroad, and read our other publications on medium-sized cities.


No time to read? La Fabrique de la Cité has got you covered.

BRAKES FOR AUTONOMOUS MOBILITY2020 was not the year of the driverless revolution but rather the one during which “reality (set in) about the challenges and complexity” that characterize the sector. The difficult current context (economic crisis, repositioning of mobility operators on their core business), although it could have fueled the development of AVs (only one person per vehicle, no need for a driver, etc.) only compounds preexisting challenges, particularly those related to technology or the complexity of travel. – Sarah Cosatto

– Redistribution of offices between neighborhoods and between cities of different sizes, new work tools and methods, new models of life-/workspaces, conversion of vacant offices nito other uses (housing, warehouses, health care centers, etc.)… While the pandemic has not caused the disappearance of office real estate, it seems that the sector is rapidly and profoundly transforming. – Sarah Cosatto

FROM SMART TO SAFE CITIES – After Alphabet, whose affiliate Sidewalk Labs pulled out its Quayside’s smart city project in Toronto in 2019, Cisco announced it will put an end to Cisco Kinetic for Cities, its subsidiary dedicated to smart city solutions, as a result of its bad financial results  caused by the pandemic. However, Cisco will not abandon business with local urban authorities since the company intends to redirect its activities on surveillance and security.  – Camille Combe, Project Manager

“THE CASE FOR LARGE CITIES IN A POST-PANDEMIC WORLD” – Remember how the pandemic was supposed to herald the end of large cities, with disillusioned urbanites leaving New York City and the likes in droves to move to the suburbs or the country? Turns out this might not be a bad thing for NYC and similar-sized cities. – Marie Baléo, Head of Studies and Publications

THE SWEDISH “ONE-MINUTE CITY” – The  national innovation body Vinnova and design think tank ArkDes created this scheme to design and regularly adapt the country’s future streets. If its name is reminiscent of the “15-minute city”, its goal is to engage more directly with the public rather than to meet “the needs of all city residents at a hyperlocal level. However, implementing such a model is dependent on the cities’ financial means that are limited, all the more since the start of the pandemic.  – Sarah Cosatto

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