- Development policy or palliative therapy? Investing in the quality of public spaces in the distance from large urban centers   click here to open paper content699 kb
by    Goledzinowska, Anna | a_g@tlen.pl   click here to send an email to the auther(s) of this paper
Short Outline
The paper refers to two main issues: 1) the phenomenon of an extensive
network of medium-sized towns in Poland 2) effectiveness of investments in
the quality of public spaces as a tool stimulating social and economic
Poland has an extensive network of small and medium-sized towns. This
second group - providing access to higher order services - influences the
quality of life or large part of the country’s population. Studies of many
Polish geographers (e. Marszał, Rydz, Jażdżewicz) showed that the aftermath
of system change in 1990 was much more severe for smaller urban centers
than for areas of metropolitan potential. The consequences of this
transition shock are still evident.

Against this background, a priority for improving the quality of public
spaces (this tendency has occurred around 2000 and intensified after the
Polish accession to the EU in 2004), seems to be particularly worth
verifying. The adoption of such investment priorities are consistent with
the hypothesis of T. Markowski (2006), according to which, the physical
attributes of smaller towns played a larger role in shaping their
competitive image than factors such as innovations or a knowledge-based

A similar strategy adopted in the towns of Eastern Germany has failed. New
quality of urban space was not able to compete with an extensive range of
possibilities offered by metropolitan areas in the west of the country.
Invested considerable resources did not stop depopulation. In Poland, the
situation is different - in the past two decades the population of medium-
size towns has declined, but the percentage is similar to the decline of
the population living in urban areas in general. However, can the new
quality of public space become an important development factor? Is the new
image of the town an effective tool for attracting investors and mobilizing
residents or only relieves the symptoms of collapse?

In the study were adopted several different spatial ranges. Analysis of the
major legal and economic conditions was carried out for Poland with
reference to the relevant EU policies. Cross-sectional analysis was carried
out for 22 medium-sized towns of socially and economically diverse region
of Pomerania. The case studies were made for the four towns (Pruszcz
Gdanski, Tczew, Chojnice and Ustka) in which improving the quality of
public space was designed to achieve a different development goals. As the
point of reference were used strategies referring to the quality of public
space implemented in countries with a similar settlement structure -
Germany and Denmark.

The results show that under certain conditions the answer to the above
questions can be positive. Furthermore, better results were achieved in
those cases, in which the main investments in the public spaces have
carried out without use of the EU funds.

The work may be applicable in conditions of Poland and other Central
European countries. The study considers strategies used in different
economic circumstances so the conclusions may become useful also in
conditions of non-EU countries.

The paper is based on the outcomes of the research project “Transformation
of public space in medium sized town in conditions of market economy in
Poland“ is being financed by the National Science Center on the basis of
the decision number DEC-2011/01/N/HS4/05989.
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