Provincial capital of a key industrial, economic and agricultural area, the SantaFe metropolitan region is home to over 650,000 residents. As a strategically located port city it links modern trade across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and boasts growing agro-industry and bio-economy sectors, while its nearly 450-year history and role as the birthplace of the Argentinian National Constitution give it significant cultural heritage. Home to three universities and another fourteen scientific and technical institutes, Santa Fe is a center of politics, innovation, and entrepreneurism in Argentina today. However, it faces major disaster risk from catastrophic flooding.
The city’s resilience vision is to create an integrated and thriving city with a metropolitan approach to development, a safer community with a strong spirit of solidarity, and a sustainable economy with opportunities for young people. In particular, Santa Fe aims to position itself as a hub for business travel, leveraging its architecture, infrastructure, and human capital to attract major events.
The resilience of a city needs to be built at many scales, ranging from the resilience of its regional economy to the resilience of individuals and families at a household level. Districts and neighborhoods have historically been the unit at which cities develop and grow, and within which city residents make their homes and derive their sense of place and community. The different areas of a city may have different exposure to flooding, fires, and other natural hazards; they will also serve unique purposes and functions for distinct cultural or business communities. Districts have therefore proven to be a critical scale for problem-solving, re-investment, and innovation in cities. The city of Santa Fe is working to achieve its resilience goals through a major project in a downtown zone of its city – the area surrounding the BelgranoRailwayStation.
Santa Fe aims to position itself as a hub for business travel, leveraging its architecture, infrastructure, and human capital to attract major events.
In 2008, after 15 years of being left derelict by the national government, the city began the renovation of its iconic Belgrano Railway Station through private and public investment, successfully transforming the building itself into an important site for exhibitions, fairs, and conventions. More recently, the Argentinian government made a commitment to recovering derelict public lands nationwide; given that 24 hectares of underutilized public land surround the now thriving station building, the city is seizing on the opportunity to further bolster the value of the wider Belgrano area.
Santa Fe’s Resilience Strategy, released in of 2017, included an initiative for creating a Master Plan for revitalizing the property surrounding the historic Belgrano Station by mid-2019. The resulting project will integrate this zone into the wider urban grid by developing housing, green space, bicycle lanes, and new commercial activities, and will also identify sources of financing to carry out the different projects, in particular the expansion of the Convention Center within the station to a world-class complex.
The Belgrano Station Master Plan project is part of a series of initiatives within the city’s Resilience Strategy aimed at exploring urban management models for facilitating the sustainable use of the environmental and social assets of a city. The plan for major socio-productive works for Greater Santa Fe – also included in the Resilience Strategy – focuses on a series of works that have broad consensus across relevant stakeholders, including resilient investments in airports, bridges and road connections, and industrial and logistic parks. The Belgrano Station project will take place within this wider context of urban revitalization in Santa Fe, amplifying its potential impact.
The central location of the Belgrano Station, combined with the high buildability allowed by current regulations, give this project its great potential. The site is envisioned for mixed-use development, including for the current residents of informal settlements nearby. Development plans will increase publicly-accessible green space and ensure a sustainable environmental footprint for the site as a whole. Moreover, Santa Fe has made a commitment that any new development must not detract from the cultural and patrimonial value of the Belgrano Station building itself. Finally, the Master Plan must be developed in a participatory manner with the handful of families presently living on the site and in surrounding neighborhoods.
The development will attract not only locals but also visitors to the city, including for frequent conferences hosted at the Convention Center. In particular, the opportunity for new hotels and hospitality services is quite high, as the city suffers from a shortage of modern hotel rooms and is currently enlarging the capacity of the Convention Center itself.
The intervention will be carried out on lands owned by the National Government, as well as a sector of the property which is leased to the Municipality. Although the intervention is limited to a specific site, its privileged location will allow for uses with regional, national, and even international impact.
The Role of 100 Resilient Cities
100RC has supported the city in creating a project brief for the Belgrano Station zone, gathering into one document the various opportunities offered by the concept, and applying a resilience lens to the planning process. The organization has also joined the city in negotiations with the present owners of the land, to determine the most beneficial ways to structure eventual land deals.
First Steps and Looking Ahead
Given the complexity of the interests in the site and the potential impact of the project on Santa Fe, the definition of a management model will be fundamental to the project’s success. The management model will have to offer a collaborative and optimized environment that allows for the interaction between agencies, the elimination of overlaps, and the coordination of interventions, in order to generate confident in the opportunity within the real estate market of Belgrano.
The Belgrano Station and surroundings belong to the National Government, administered by the State Property Administration Agency (AABE). Multiple actors presently make use of the land, and their interests and needs, both formal and informal, are being accounted for in the creation of the Master Plan.
At the end of 2018, the Municipality of Santa Fe signed an agreement with the AABE to advance the development process, which provides for the social, environmental and urban recovery of the entire site, and allows the city to perform works the residents have long requested, such as opening new streets in the area.
The Belgrano project will address some of the key stresses faced by Santa Fe, such as rainfall flooding, vacant lots, a lack of investment and economic diversification, and high unemployment among the city’s youth.
Outcomes and Impacts
The Belgrano project will address some of the key stresses faced by Santa Fe, such as rainfall flooding, vacant lots, a lack of investment and economic diversification, and high unemployment among the city’s youth. Not only will existing business concentrate there, but a new technological district is planned, and local entrepreneurs linked to the software industry have proposed projects for the neighborhood.
Along with the 28,628 residents in surrounding neighborhoods, direct beneficiaries of the Belgrano redevelopment will include the young people gaining formal employment, the local industries of construction and tourism, the ~2,500 families from around the city that will obtain housing within the new development, and the ~60 families currently in informal settlements on the site that will improve their living conditions.
The assets planned for the Belgrano zone will allow Santa Fe to position itself as a promising destination for business tourism, leveraging its architectural heritage and associated quality services to attract regional, national and international events.
The Belgrano Station project offers a high resilience value for the city, as it is developing an area in the city through a lens that considers multiple uses and the visions and needs of the different actors involved. As a new “piece of the city,” the Belgrano area will offer not only new housing of various types and costs but also will positively impact multiple city concerns, including:
Health and Wellbeing: the development of a mixed use district, including housing with a generous provision of public spaces, offers citizens more options for an active daily life in a vibrant urban environment.
Economy and Society: the implementation of the project will mean an increase in investment in the city, which in turn boosts the economy and generates confidence among potential investors. Likewise, by integrating a diverse group of residents, including the poor and vulnerable, into the district, the Belgrano Station project will help Santa Fe create more cohesive communities with a greater sense of identity and belonging to the city.
Infrastructure and Environment: the development of an entire zone of a city offers the opportunity to rethink infrastructure solutions, incorporating new concepts and new technologies to optimize its operation. The ‘opening’ of the site to the city’s residents also offers the opportunity to reconnect areas of the city that at this moment are isolated and fragmented.
Leadership and Strategy: the Belgrano station site offers a new opportunity to develop and test urban development processes that integrate local actors (communities, municipality) and provincial and national organizations (provincial government, AABE) that have historically worked in an unconnected way.