46th Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "Enlargement, Southern Europe and the Mediterranean", August 30th - September 3rd, 2006, Volos, Greece
Greek port cities find themselves in a profound and encompassing change as they try to improve their image and confront the competition for advanced port services and facilities and the need for urban revitalization. As port functions are increasingly relocated towards the outskirts of port cities, disadvantaged neighbourhoods and docks are turned into modern housing and commercial areas or cultural quarters that reinforce the identity, the appeal and the competitiveness of the city. Policies and practices that consider the regeneration of derelict areas and seafronts are at the top of local agendas with culture and leisure resources (cultural infrastructure, mega-events, tourist facilities, etc.) holding the key role. The main goal is the creation of new city images and environments that are attractive for residents, investors and visitors. Hence, these new policies have various spatial and economic effects, leading to prestigious waterfront developments, cultural clustering (e.g., Wit de Wittestraat in Rotterdam, Ladadika in Thessaloniki), increase of tourism, etc. On the other hand, regeneration projects affect the traditional spatial urban hierarchies and often lead to the displacement of activities and residents. So the main issue is how port cities can avoid the negative effects and in which way these strategies affect the economic and portal services. The paper intends to present the most important policy changes of the major Greek port cities and to evaluate the role of culture and leisure within these policies. Characteristic examples of European port cities redevelopments based on culture, such as the ones of Bilbao, Rotterdam and Hamburg, will be compared to the efforts of Greek port cities. Special emphasis will be given to the Cultural Capital of Europe event that has had a great impact on Thessaloniki (1997) and is expected to have a long term effect on Patras (2006). The main research questions that are being addressed are the following: Which are the spatial, economic, social and environmental effects of the new port city strategies and which role do the cultural resources hold? Is an effective cultural and leisure policy a panacea for port cities in order to adjust to the contemporary competition? How are Greek port cities responding to these new circumstances?